Dr. Liddelow gained his Bachelors of Science (Hons) and Biomedical Science from the University of Melbourne, Australia, majoring in Neuroscience and Anatomy & Cell Biology. He received his PhD with Kataryzna Dziegielewska and Norman Saunders in Pharmacology also from the University of Melbourne. His graduate work focused on the protective barriers of the brain during early development, specifically investigating ways to augment this system for delivery of drugs to the central nervous system.
As a postdoctoral fellow in the lab of Ben Barres at Stanford University his research focused on astrocytes, the major glial subtype in the brain. He discovered a close association between astrocytes, microglia (the resident immune cells of the brain), and abnormal neuron function. His most recent research showed that one form of reactive astrocyte is induced by inflammatory microglia. These reactive astrocytes release a toxic factor that kills specific subtypes of neurons and are present in brains of patients with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s disease, and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease), as well as in Multiple Sclerosis.
Shane was a recipient of the NHMRC (Australia) CJ Martin Training Award (2012-2016), the Glenn Foundation award for Aging in 2016, and was named a STATNews Wunderkind in 2017. In early 2018 he started his own independent research group at the Neuroscience Institute at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City. He continues to research astrocyte dysfunction in neurodegenerative disease.
THE REAL STORY:
Shane grew up in a small town in the southwest of Western Australia. In a highschool that drew pupils from many surrounding country towns, he had dreams of being a medical doctor. After graduating he applied to study medicine, and then went to Melbourne on the east coast of Australia for a 2 week holiday, he ended up staying for 10 years (and not becoming a medical Dr).
Enrolling in a biomedical science degree, biochemistry was winning his interests, along with opening a restaurant to pay his student loans. Life was busy, until he was mugged on the way home from work and ended up having brain surgery for a suspected aneurism. Bouncing back he changed track, and finished a degree in neuroscience. Wanting to have experience in a lab environment he approached some faculty who told him that he didn’t have what it took to do research. He responded by enrolling in a PhD program in pharmacology, and began travelling the world learning the techniques he needed to succeed - upstate NY, San Antonio TX, Melbourne Australia, there was a lot of travel! A dozen research papers and reviews (and a successful wedding planning business) later a PhD was achieved. He learned much during his PhD, the most important being how to write a letter to the Queen of England – a much needed skill to get copies of Leonardo Da Vinci’s diaries to complete his literature search for the most expansive historical background in a PhD thesis ever (it started in 1700BC with the ancient Egyptians).
At a Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory meeting in 2011 Shane met Ben Barres and after realizing a common love of science and coffee, a postdoc was born. Here Shane started his interest in all things glia. Changing fields was tough, but not as tough as being hit by a car during his second year at Stanford and spending the next three having surgery and physical therapy to get his body back into action. The mystery and magic of glia was always calling, and the interactions between immune cells and astrocytes was his big discovery. In the end, Shane spent the vast majority of his time working with a neurotoxin – killing neurons (not a traditional neuroscientist endeavor). With the support of an amazing mentor in Ben, a lot of freedom, and some amazing colleagues, the postdoc was finished, the papers published, and the faculty job started at NYU… it could have probably all been easier, but it wouldn’t have made for a good story.