1. You are a veterinary surgeon and anatomist, with a wide range of research interests and publications, in particular in the areas of research methods (3-D technologies), comparative anatomy, neuropathology and ageing. Can you tell us how you became interested in veterinary medicine and how you developed these interests?
I was first interested in the surgical aspect of Veterinary Medicine and had my degree in Veterinary Medicine back in 1991. During the under-graduate course I became very interested in Veterinary Anatomy and that is why, after I graduated, I did Master and PhD specifically in Veterinary Anatomy. Subsequently, I was invited to be a Research Fellow for University College London (UCL) for two years and that was the time when I got interested in 3-D technologies applied for Quantitative Microscopy (or Stereology) which I have been implementing for the past 12 years.
In total, I have been teaching Veterinary Anatomy for the past 22 years and using and implementing 3-D technologies for Microscopy for the past 12 years.
2. Your recently published the article Stereological and Allometric Studies on Neurons and Axo-Dendritic Synapses in Superior Cervical Ganglia which reviews existing findings on the structure of the superior cervical ganglion (SCG) in a wide range of mammals. How important is comparative anatomy in understanding and driving future research in pathology and ageing?
The Superior Cervical Ganglion (SCG) is a sympathetic ganglion located in the proximal part of the neck. In mammals, the SCG provides sympathetic innervation to the head and neck as well as to the mandible, submandibular and pineal glands, cephalic blood vessels, choroid plexus, eye, carotid body, salivary and thyroid glands. Removal of SCG brings about several neuroendocrine dysfunctions in mammals, including the disruption of water balance in pituitary stalk-sectioned rats and the alteration of the normal photoperiodic control of reproduction in hamsters, ferrets, voles, rams and goats.
Better understanding of the autonomic nervous system could prove vital in improving early diagnosis and treatment of neurological disorders, including stroke, epilepsy and the peripheral form of Huntington’s and Parkinson’s diseases. It could also have an impact on our understanding of how ageing affects other parts of the body.
3.Can you briefly explain the latest technologies help us visualise and understand the nervous system at the synaptic level? What can we learn from these methods?
There is a startling difference between 2-D methods for quantitative microscopy, the so-called morphometry, and Stereology.
Stereology is a state-of-the-art and more accurate and precise approach, which elicits more robust and reliable results. Stereology methods use 3-D spatial sampling and we can estimate total cell numbers (and not only number of cell profiles in a known area as morphometry does) and we can also access the real size of a cell which is expressed by its volume and not by its area as 2-D methods provide.
4.You are a surgeon as well as a researcher. How do other practitioners benefit from your findings? Are they able to access your research if they are not at a University themselves?
I am an academic conducting Teaching and Research. Our research is very clinically-oriented and we hope that our colleagues working in Veterinary practices will start to understand the vital roles the autonomic nervous system (and mainly SCG) plays in neurological disorders affecting animals. The findings of our paper are available on Open Access repository and our colleagues and the public in general can always contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss this further.