Professor Volker Straub
Harold Macmillan Professor of Medicine

Introduction

Professor Straub joined the University in November 2003 from the University of Essen, Germany. He holds a first degree in Human Medicine and an MD/PHD from Heinrich-Heine-University of Dusseldorf, and was a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the University of Iowa, specialising in muscular dystrophies.

He has an international reputation in the study of neuromuscular disease, and is one of the lead co-ordinators of the German MD-net in Muscular Dystrophies.

Background

Professor Straub talks about his move to Newcastle:
'Why do you move from Essen in the Ruhr area, a metropolitan region in Germany whose economy was based on coal mining, to Newcastle upon Tyne? Taking coals to Newcastle?
Well, at the University of Essen, I specialized in Paediatric Neurology with a particular interest in genetics and inherited neuromuscular diseases. For many years, Newcastle University has enjoyed a reputation as an international research leader in the field of neuromuscular disorders, and provides excellent clinical and diagnostic services for patients and their families.
The opportunity to join, extend and consolidate the neuromuscular research group in Newcastle was a major driving force for my move from Essen to the Institute of Human Genetics, where I now have my clinical base and my research base.

Roles and Responsibilities

Harold Macmillan – besides being the British prime minister from 1957-63 – was the First Earl of Stockton and, as the holder of the Harold Macmillan Chair of Medicine, Professor Straub also has administrative and clinical duties in the North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Trust, www.nth.nhs.uk/.

 

Professor Straub has an honorary consultant contract in paediatrics with the North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust and an honorary consultant contract in genetics with the Newcastle NHS Foundation Trust. 

Qualifications

Habilitation/Lectureship (University of Essen, Germany), 01/2003

Board Exam in Paediatrics, Consultant Clinical Qualification (Essen, Germany), 2001

Postdoctoral Research Associate of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, USA, 1995-1998

Medical degree, Heinrich-Heine-University of Düsseldorf, Germany
1987-1993

Previous Positions

•1998-2003 Senior Registrar, Senior Lecturer and subsequently Reader in Paediatrics, University of Essen, Dept. of Paediatrics and Paediatric Neurology,
•1995-1998 Grantee of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (German Research Society) / Postdoctoral Research Associate of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, University of Iowa, USA
•1993-1995 Clinical registrar, University of Düsseldorf, Germany, Dept. of Paediatrics

Research Interests

Professor Straub’s research interest is focused on the origin of hereditary muscle diseases, particularly the muscular dystrophies. In many of the muscular dystrophies it is assumed that compared to healthy individuals muscle cells of affected patients are less capable of coping with mechanical damage. This could either be due to a higher susceptibility of the cells to shear stresses during contraction or due to defective repair mechanisms. As a result skeletal muscles gradually perish, causing muscle weakness and muscle wasting. Many muscular dystrophies are caused by defects in proteins localized to the cell membrane and the surrounding tissue, the extracellular matrix. The neuromuscular team, lead by Prof. Kate Bushby and Prof. Volker Straub, is interested to understand how muscle cells maintain their integrity during cycles of contraction and relaxation. Many muscular dystrophies are caused by genetic defects that lead to the loss of membrane integrity, either are interested in the development and sealing of membrane lesions, which seem to play an important role in the course of muscular dystrophies.

Current Work

Within the neuromuscular research group I have a long-standing interest in the pathogenesis of muscular dystrophies. Mechanisms of muscle fibre damage and repair are studied in zebrafish (with Dr D Bassett) and mouse models for the diseases. The application of contrast enhanced MRI gives an insight into the dynamic processes underlying muscle fibre de- and regeneration. Our group’s work is supported by the EU, the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign, the Association Francaise contre les Myopathies, the British Heart Foundation, the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, the Department of Health and the MRC.

Future Research

I plan to continue and build upon this current research and responsibility, which will be further facilitated by the recent launch of the MRC Centre status.

Research Roles

Along with colleague Professor Kate Bushby, I co-ordinate TREAT-NMD, a European Union Network of Excellence for the development of translational research in rare neuromuscular diseases. Together with Hanns Lochmüller, I was responsible for setting up the German muscular dystrophy network, MD-NET, of which I was joint coordinator until 2008.

Postgraduate Supervision

Penny Garrood, Mohamad Al-Raqad, Yen-Hui Chiu (all Research students). Alasdair Wood (MRes-PhD MRC studentship).

Esteem Indicators

Since 2001 Member, Society for Pediatric Neurology

2002-2008 Coordinator of the German Muscular Dystrophy Network (MD-NET, www.md-net.org) together with Hanns Lochmüller , funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research

Since 2006 Member, Executive Board of the Institute of Human Genetics, Newcastle University

Since 2007 Coordinator of the European Network of Excellence for rare inherited neuromuscular diseases, TREAT-NMD (www.treat-nmd.eu) together with Kate Bushby, funded by the European Commission

Since 2007 Member, Executive Board of the World Muscle Society & local co-ordinator of the 2008 WMS conference held in Newcastle

Since 2008 Fellow of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health

Funding

The work of the team is supported by the EU, the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign, Action Medical Research, the Association Francaise contre les Myopathies, the British Heart Foundation, the NIH, the Jain Foundation, the Department of Health and the MRC.

Undergraduate Teaching

BGM3030: Advanced Medical Genetics

Postgraduate Teaching

CMS8012: Research Project
CMS8005: Clinical Genetics and Molecular Pathology