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Dr Jill Saffrey

Profile summary

  • Visiting Informal Academic
  • Honorary Associate
  • Faculty of Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics
  • School of Life, Health & Chemical Sciences
  • jill.saffrey

Professional biography

Senior Lecturer in Biological Sciences

My research is in the area of autonomic neuroscience and is focused on ageing and postnatal development of the enteric nervous system.

Research interests

The major focus of the work in my lab, which is funded by the BBSRC, is concerned with the biology of ageing. Our work is primarily focused on analysis of how the gut changes during ageing, and understanding the mechanisms that underlie these changes. I also collaborate on research on ageing of the autonomic neurons that regulate bowel and bladder function (with Dr Richard Ranson, Northumbria University), and the role of microRNAs on ageing of the blood brain barrier (with Dr Ignacio Romero, Open University and Prof Steve Wharton, University of Sheffield).

Much of my research focuses on the intrinsic innervation of the gut. The majority of neurons that regulate gut functions are located in a complex network of ganglia known as the enteric nervous system, which lies embedded within the gut wall, and contains many millions of neurons. In my laboratory we use a range of techniques to analyse the properties of these nerons. In particular, in addition to electron and light microscopy, molecular and immunological studies, we have developed methods to isolate enteric neurons and neural progenitors from the gut, and use cell and tissue culture methods to analyse the effects of neurotrophic and neuroprotective factors on these cells in vitro.                                                                                                                                           

In collaborative work on the ageing gut, with Richard Ranson and Dr Mark Yeoman of the University of Brighton, we are employing a multidisciplinary approach to understanding the physiological and cellular changes that occur in the terminal bowel during ageing. Such changes may contribute to faecal incontinence, which severely undermines the quality of life in the elderly. 

Other research interests include the innervation of the bladder, postnatal development of the enteric nervous system and analysis of neuroprotective molecules using cell culture models.

  • Physiological and cellular analysis of changes in the terminal colon during ageing
  • Age-associated changes in extrinsic innervation of the gut
  • Mechanisms of cellular ageing in the gut
  • Age-associated changes in the urinary system
  • Changes in intestinal innervation during postnatal development 
  • Expression of neurotrophic factors and their receptors in the postnatal and ageing gut and bladder
  • Actions of neurotrophic factors on enteric neurons and glia in culture




Teaching interests

I teach in the Life Sciences and the Health Sciences programmes. I currently contribute to S294 Cell Biology, and Molecular and Cell Biology (S377). Previously, I have contributed to: Investigative Biology (SXR270), Biology: Uniformity and Diversity (S204), Issues in Brain and Behaviour (SD805), Human Biology and Health (SK220), and Biology: Form and Function (S203).

Research Activity

Research groups

NameTypeParent Unit
Biomedical Research Network (BRN)NetworkFaculty of Science