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Joanna Poulton

Joanna Poulton


Lily Foundation

New Life


Rare Mitochondrial Disorders Service for Adults and Children (NCG)

DNA diagnostics are carried by the Molecular Genetics Laboratories at the Churchill Hospital.

Dr Victoria Nesbitt ( now leads the clinical service and Sabrina Sturdy is the service PA (+44)1865 225899 (

Please follow this link to the form that should accompany any samples for DNA analysis that you send: Download Form


2013     RCP

1997     FRCPCH

1996     Royal Society University Research Fellowship

1992     Ronnie MacKeith prize, British Paediatric Neurological Association

1991     Wellcome Senior Research Fellowship in Clinical Science

1991     DM Oxford

1990     Medical Research Council Travelling Fellowship

1989     Sanofi Essay Prize (Advances in genetics and application to epilepsy)           

1986     Action Research Training Fellowship

1982     MRCP (London)

1979     BM BCh Oxford

1977     Essay Prize in Pathology (Oxford Medical School)

1976     BA Oxford Physiological Sciences  (Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford)

1975     College Scholarship (Lady Margaret Hall)

Jo Poulton

Professor of Mitochondrial Genetics

Research groups

Research Interests include:

  • Transmission and recurrence risks in mtDNA disease: The unique way in which mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) is transmitted makes genetic counselling difficult. Dramatic changes in level of mutant mtDNA are attributable to a "genetic bottleneck" whereby a small number of mtDNAs become the founders for the offspring. We are studying the basis of this bottleneck in families and embryos, and are developing novel approaches to genetic counselling of mtDNA diseases, namely oocyte sampling and pre-implantation genetic diagnosis. We developed the current international consensus for reproductive options in mitochondrial disease, based on an workshop funded by the European Neuromuscular Centre Poulton J. et al, (2019), Neuromuscular Disorders, 29, 725 - 733.
  • Diseases of mtDNA maintenance: Control of mitochondrial copy number may be central to the pathogenesis of mtDNA disorders such as MtDNA depletion syndrome (MDS), Autosomal dominant Progressive External Ophthalmoplegia (AdPEO), Autosomal recessive Progressive External Ophthalmoplegia (ArPEO) and MyoNeuroGastroIntestinal Encephalomyopathy (MNGIE). These newly characterised mtDNA diseases are caused by mutations in autosomal genes, many of which are associated with a reduced quantity of defective mtDNA in affected tissues. We have therefore developed a method for quantitating the rate of mtDNA synthesis in cell lines derived from patients with these diseases. We are using this to study the 16189 variant, autosomally inherited defects in mtDNA maintenance and the basic science of mtDNA replication. We have also used this method to demonstrate consistent abnormalities in mtDNA synthesis in cell lines derived from such patients. Understanding the molecular mechanisms of these disorders may improve genetic counselling, and suggest novel therapies.
  • MtDNA variants in common multi-factorial diseases: We demonstrated that a common polymorphism, the mtDNA "16189 variant" is a risk factor for low birth weight to placental ratio, type2 diabetes and other multifactorial disorders. Because the 16189 variant has arisen many times independently, these associations are likely to be causal and not due to a founder effect. We are studying the molecular basis for these associations, which imply interactions of nuclear and mitochondrial genomes.

 BMJ Article 

Read: "Joanna Poulton Research is in my DNA" article 

current Group Members

  • Sara Maxwell (Technician)
  • Yosuke Matsumiya (Co-supervised D Phil student in Vatish group)
  • Hussam Rostom (Co-supervised D Phil student in Hannan group)


  • Dr Karl Morten, (NDWRH)
  • Dr. Rachel Cox (Uniformed Services University, Bethesda, USA)
  • Prof. Suzannah Williams, (NDWRH)
  • Prof. Dagan Wells, (NDWRH)
  • Prof Kassim Javaid (NDORMS)
  • Dr Iain Johnston (Bergen)
  • Dr Joerg Burgstaller (Vienna)
  • Dr Heather Mortiboys (SITraN, Sheffield)
  • Prof Marcela Votruba (Cardiff)
  • Prof Carolyn Sue and Dr Ryan Davis (Sydney)
  • Profs Robert Taylor, Robert McFarland and Grainne Gorman (Newcastle)
  • Prof Francesco Muntoni, Drs Rahul Phadke, Robert Piceathly (UCL), Antonella Spinazzola and Ian Holt (UCL)

Key publications

Recent publications

More publications