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Sarah Snelling

MBiochem DPhil

Associate Professor

  • Senior Scientific Officer, NIHR Biomedical Research Centre Musculoskeletal theme
  • Director of DPhil and MSc(Res) Taught Courses


Sarah received an MBiochem from the department of Biochemistry, University of Oxford before moving to the Botnar Research Centre, NDORMS to pursue a DPhil in the genetics and functionality of osteoarthritis.

In 2009 Sarah was awarded an Arthritis Research UK Foundation Fellowship at the University of East Anglia. Sarah returned to NDORMS in 2012 as an Arthritis Research UK Career Progression Fellow. During her fellowship studies Sarah identified the Wnt antagonist Dickkopf-3 (Dkk3) as upregulated in osteoarthritis and interrogated its in vitro and in vivo role in osteoarthritis pathogenesis. Dkk3 was shown to regulate the response of cartilage to injury and inflammation and to regulate fibrotic signaling pathways including TGFβ. During this time Sarah pursued collaborative research with Professor Andrew Carr's research group that identified inflammatory and fibrotic pathways dysregulated in osteoarthritis and tendinopathy, and characterised cell response to biomaterial scaffolds for cartilage and tendon regeneration. 

In 2016 Sarah was appointed as a Senior Research Fellow at NDORMS and became the academic lead for a programme of research focusing on the interaction of cells with biomaterials. In 2017 she was appointed  Senior Scientific Officer for the Musculoskeletal theme of the NIHR Biomedical Research Centre where she manages interactions with other themes and is responsible for scientific reporting of the Musculoskeletal theme. Sarah is also the Director of taught courses for DPhil and MSc(Res) students at NDORMS.

Research Summary

There is a critical need for improved biological understanding and clinical outcome in fibrotic diseases of musculoskeletal soft tissues including tendinopathy and osteoarthritis. Fibrotic and inflammatory signalling pathways are disrupted in osteoarthritis and tendinopathy and Sarah continues to interrogate and characterise these pathways in collaboration with Dr Stephanie Dakin, Dr Pierre-Alexis Mouthuy and Prof. Andrew Carr. 

When musculoskeletal soft tissues including tendon become critically damaged surgery is the only clinical option. However, despite improvements in surgical techniques, the success of current surgical repairs is limited. Biomaterial scaffolds provide a promising strategy to biologically and structurally enhance this repair. We know that the activity of disease-relevant cells can be altered by changing the chemical and physical properties of biomaterials. This has led to Sarah’s current research on the mechanisms underlying cell response to biomaterials.

This work aims to harness the biomaterial response of endogenous cells to modify inflammation, potentiate resolution and ultimately drive successful, non-fibrotic repair of soft tissues including tendon.