Sarah Dunlop

Emeritus Professor, BSc PhD Lond.

  • The University of Western Australia (M092), 35 Stirling Highway,

    6009 Perth

    Australia

  • Source: Scopus
  • Calculated using citation counts from Scopus for publications in the UWA Profiles and Research Repository
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Personal profile

Roles and responsibilities

CURRENT POSITION 
Director, Plastics & Human Health, Minderoo Foundation, Perth

Emeritus Professor, School of Biological Sciences, The University of Western Australia

Accorded Status, Royal Perth Hospital

QUALIFICATIONS
PhD 1978 (London)
BSc (Hons) 1974 (London)


Previous positions

APPOINTMENTS - SINCE 2010
1998 - 2010 Senior Research Fellow, NH&MRC, Animal Biology, UWA
2011 - 2013 Principal Research Fellow, NH&MRC, Animal Biology, UWA
2005 - 2013 Professorial Fellow (Research), UWA
2013 - 2016 Head, School of Animal Biology, UWA
2016 - 2019 Head, School of Biological Sciences, UWA

Research

CAREER

Professor Dunlop currently leads the Plastics & Human Health research program, part of the Flourishing Oceans Initiative at the Minderoo Foundation, Perth. The Minderoo Foundation is a modern philanthropic organisation that seeks effective, scalable solutions to the biggest problems confronting humanity, including plastic pollution. The vision of Plastics and Human Health is to eliminate harm to human health during plastic production, use and waste management. The program is examining evidence on the impact of plastic exposure on human health as well as developing infrastructure and supporting research on brain health such as neurodegenerative disease and brain tumours as well as childhood neurodevelopmental disorders. Minderoo also recognises that evidence is not enough and is forming an Alliance to engage with global stakeholders to synthesise knowledge, promote findings beyond the scientific community and effect change.

Professor Dunlop completed her PhD at the University of London on environmental toxicology of sub-lethal concentrations of heavy metals. She then immigrated to Australia to build on her research interests in injury by turning to the field of neuroscience undertaking both discovery and clinical research in neurodevelopment and neurotrauma. Throughout her career, she has held a number of senior leadership roles including President of the Australian Neuroscience Society, President of the Federation of the Asian & Oceanian Neuroscience Societies and is past Head of the School of Biological Sciences, UWA. Professor Dunlop helped establish, and was a Director of, the Spinal Cord Injury Network, a collaborative of clinicians, researchers and people living with spinal cord injury, was Chair of its Clinical Trials Committee and is a prior Member of the Board of the Quadriplegic Centre, WA. She has recently extended her injury research portfolio to include the effects of environmental plastic pollution on the human brain, in particular in relation to neurodegeneration and brain tumours.

 

RESEARCH 

Professor Dunlop led an integrated program of laboratory and clinical research. Laboratory studies examined in vivoanimal models of neurodevelopment and neurotrauma of both the peripheral and central nervous systems and included programs of work such as:- training to promote recovery after facial nerve injury; development of animal models and treatments for diabetic retinopathy; the effects of maternally administered corticosteroids on the brains of offspring at risk of pre-term birth;  the effects of maternally administered naltrexone on drug-seeking behaviour in offspring etc. She currently contributes to laboratory-based discovery research via collaboration and PhD supervision in areas including the gut microbiome and neurodegenerative disease, brain plasticity and spinal cord injury. 

 

Professor Dunlop’s clinical work involved leading the West Australian arms of several clinical research programs at The University of Western Australia, Royal Perth Hospital and Fiona Stanley Hospitals Clinical. Three recently completed multi-centre randomized controlled trials, “Spinal Cord Injury and Physical Activity (SCIPA)”, involved all 8 spinal units in Australia and New Zealand to examine novel ways to exercise the paralysed limbs to promote neurological recovery and improve health. The trials spanned acute care to the community, reflecting the lifetime need of these patients. SCIPA.Com also developed a program to train the trainers, break down barriers to exercise and increase participation once patients are living in the community. “ICED” Immediate Cooling and Early Decompression) is another multi-centre clinical initiative focusing on acute spinal cord injury involving immediate hypothermia in the ambulance to buy time and limit secondary damage before emergency surgical decompression. Current clinical trials involve 1) instillations of glycosoaminoglycans (which normally line the bladder but are compromised after injury) in acute injury to prevent recurrent urinary tract infections and 2) re-positioning movements to minimize pressure injuries. Both conditions constitute the major reasons for hospital readmissions in these vulnerable patient cohorts.

Research expertise keywords

  • Development and regeneration of the vertebrate visual system
  • Neuroscience
  • Neural plasticity
  • Central nervous system
  • Peripheral nervous system
  • Neurotrauma
  • Reducing damage following injury to the central nervous system
  • Spinal cord injury, physical activity and functional recovery
  • Randomised controlled trials for spinal cord injury
  • Peripheral nerve injury, training and functional recovery
  • Community programs for people with spinal cord injury

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