Dr Andrea Németh is a Clinician Scientist and Associate Professor at the University of Oxford, and a Consultant in Neurogenetics at the Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust. She trained at the Royal Free Hospital School of Medicine, and also undertook an intercalated BSc in Biochemistry and Neuropharmacology at the Royal Free and University College London. She then moved to Professor Kay Davies lab in Oxford as an MRC Clinical Training Fellow, completing her DPhil at the University of Oxford in 1995. Following this she was awarded a prestigous MRC Clinician Scientist Fellowship which she did at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics in Oxford, and during this time developed her interest in ataxias, going on to characterise several novel genetic ataxia syndromes. Dr Nemeth completed her clinical training in Genetics while a Clinical Lecturer at the University of Oxford before becoming a Consultant in Neurogenetics and joining the NDCN.
Andrea H Németh
BSc; MB.BS; DPhil (Oxon); FRCP
Associate Professor and Consultant in Neurogenetics
Understanding brain function from genomic data
The main focus of my group is to understand the genetic mechanisms underlying normal function and disease within the central nervous system, including the retina and to use this information to help develop potential therapies for genetic conditions (Lufino et al., 2013). Our primary focus is on genetic mutations causing ataxias but also includes other conditions such as learning disability, dystonia and other movement disorders, epilepsy and spasticity.
Initially, we used positional cloning approaches to identifying novel genes associated with neurological disorders (Németh et al., 2000, Moreira et al., 2004) but this has been replaced with next generation sequencing (NGS) using targeted and exome capture in addition to whole genome sequencing (WGS).
We have developed NGS for clinical diagnostics in both retinal degeneration and ataxias and these tests have now been developed as NHS services through the Oxford Regional Molecular Genetics Laboratories (Shanks et al., 2012; Németh et al., 2013, Nature Reviews Neurology - view article here and Neurology Today - view article here).
We are now using these technologies to identify novel genes and genetic mechanisms causing neurogenetic disorders. In particular, we have funding from Action Medical Research and the Henry Smith Charity to investigate the genetic causes of ataxia in children.
We combined targeted capture with whole genome sequencing to identify a novel recessive ataxia, called SPARCA1 which is associated with mutations in SPTBN2 encoding BetaIII spectrin and is part of a group of disorders known as “neuronal spectrinopathies”. We are investigating the mechanisms underlying these conditions in collaboration with Dr Mandy Jackson and her team from the University of Edinburgh.
More recently, we have identified several new genetic disorders. In collaboration with the Deciphering Developmental Disorders Project at the Sanger Institute in Cambridge, the CAUSES Project in British Columbia, and Jim Hagmans team in Denver, we showed that mutations in EBF3 cause a childhood ataxia with intellectual disability. In another collaboration, with Prof Esther Becker from Oxford, we identified mutations in the gene encoding the metabotropic glutamate receptor, mGluR1 and demonstrated that the gain of function mutations can be modified using a repurposed drug, Nitazoxanide. Further work is planned to extend this study to a mouse model and human cellular models.
Our current interests also include the development of pipelines which can lead to drug discovery. In particular, we are focussing on improving human cellular models, using CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing technologies combined with human Embryonic Stem Cells. These have been differentiated into neurons to understand how the mutations we have identified lead to abnormal brain development and function.