Rebecca Lewis

Dr Rebecca Lewis

Lecturer in Physiology
BSc (Hons), PhD, FHEA
+44 (0)1483 682396
01 VSM 02


Research interests

Rebecca is interested in cell physiology, particularly in understanding mechanisms of tissue breakdown during disease. Her PhD focussed on cartilage biology; investigating chondrocyte membrane proteins and their function in both healthy and osteoarthritic tissue. She has studied the effects of inflammation on joint tissues, and how inflammation can cause changes in protein expression and lead to changes in cell signalling and function. Using electrophysiological techniques, she has probed cellular function and developed a keen interest in the cell channelome, and its influence on the cellular electrome and membrane potential.

Recently, her experience with membrane proteins and cell physiology has led her to investigate the interactions of cells with different materials, in collaboration with the Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences. She is testing different scaffolds, their effect on cellular phenotype and evaluating their use as in vitro models for drug discovery.


Rebecca graduated in Bioveterinary Sciences from the University of Liverpool in 2007 and started her PhD in the same year in the School of Veterinary Science at the University of Liverpool. The main focus of Rebecca's PhD was investigating the role of ion channels and the resting membrane potential in healthy chondrocytes. This included modelling cell behaviour to determine the function of these membrane proteins in healthy cells and relating this to the osteoarthritic disease state. Rebecca's postdoctoral work continued in the Institute of Ageing and Chronic Disease at the University of Liverpool, investigating the effect of a number of pharmacological agents on cell function and ion channel expression, using electrophysiology. Rebecca joined the EU Framework 7 funded DBoard consortium in December 2012 as a postdoctoral research associate, investigating the effect of inflammatory conditions on chondrocyte function. In September 2014, Rebecca joined the University of Surrey as a Lecturer in Physiology.



  • Module Lead for Cardiovascular, Respiratory and Musculoskeletal systems

Teaching in:

  • Cells and Genes in Context
  • Cardiovascular, Respiratory and Musculoskeletal systems
  • Integument and Alimentary systems
  • Urological and Reproductive systems
  • Organs of special senses and endocrine systems

University roles and responsibilities

  • Outcomes Assessment, School of Veterinary Medicine

Previous roles

Senior Tutor for the School of Veterinary Medicine


Postgraduate research supervision

Courses I teach on


My publications


Lewis Rebecca, Sherfield Cerrie A., Fellows Christopher R., Burrow Rachel, Young Iain, Dugdale Alex (2017) The effect of experience, simulator-training and biometric feedback on manual ventilation technique,Veterinary Anaesthesia and Analgesia 44 (3) pp. 567-576 Elsevier Ltd
Objective To determine the frequency of provision and main providers (veterinary surgeons, nurses or trainees) of manual ventilation in UK veterinary practices. Furthermore, to determine the variation in peak inspiratory (inflation) pressure (PIP), applied to a lung model during manual ventilation, by three different groups of operators (inexperienced, experienced and specialist), before and after training. Study Design Questionnaire survey. Development of a lung model simulator with real-time biometric (manometry) feedback capability and its testing as a training tool on operators with a range of experiences. Methods Postal questionnaires were sent to 100 randomly selected veterinary practices. The lung model simulator was manually ventilated, in a staged process over three weeks, with and without real-time biometric feedback (PIP display), by three groups of volunteer operators: inexperienced, experienced and specialist. Results The questionnaires determined that veterinary nurses were responsible for providing the majority of manual ventilation in veterinary practices, mainly drawing on theoretical knowledge rather than any specific training. Thoracic surgery and apnoea were the main reasons for provision of manual ventilation. Specialists performed well when manually ventilating the lung model, regardless of feedback-training. Both inexperienced and experienced operators showed significant improvement in technique when using the feedback training tool: variation in PIP decreased significantly until subjects provided manual ventilation at peak inspiratory pressures within the defined optimum range. Preferences for different forms of feedback (graphical, numerical or scale display), revealed that the operators? choice was not always the method which gave least variation in PIP. Conclusions and Clinical Relevance This study highlighted a need for training in manual ventilation at an early stage in veterinary and veterinary nursing careers and demonstrated how feedback is important in the process of experiential learning. A manometer device which can provide immediate feedback during training, or indeed in a real clinical setting, should improve patient safety.
Mobasheri A, Lewis R, Maxwell JE, Hill C, Womack M, Barrett-Jolley R (2010) Characterization of a stretch-activated potassium channel in chondrocytes., J Cell Physiol 223 (2) pp. 511-518
Chondrocytes possess the capacity to transduce load-induced mechanical stimuli into electrochemical signals. The aim of this study was to functionally characterize an ion channel activated in response to membrane stretch in isolated primary equine chondrocytes. We used patch-clamp electrophysiology to functionally characterize this channel and immunohistochemistry to examine its distribution in articular cartilage. In cell-attached patch experiments, the application of negative pressures to the patch pipette (in the range of 20-200 mmHg) activated ion channel currents in six of seven patches. The mean activated current was 45.9 +/- 1.1 pA (n = 4) at a membrane potential of 33 mV (cell surface area approximately 240 microm(2)). The mean slope conductance of the principal single channels resolved within the total stretch-activated current was 118 +/- 19 pS (n = 6), and reversed near the theoretical potassium equilibrium potential, E(K+), suggesting it was a high-conductance potassium channel. Activation of these high-conductance potassium channels was inhibited by extracellular TEA (K(d) approx. 900 microM) and iberiotoxin (K(d) approx. 40 nM). This suggests that the current was largely carried by BK-like potassium (MaxiK) channels. To further characterize these BK-like channels, we used inside-out patches of chondrocyte membrane: we found these channels to be activated by elevation in bath calcium concentration. Immunohistochemical staining of equine cartilage samples with polyclonal antibodies to the alpha1- and beta1-subunits of the BK channel revealed positive immunoreactivity for both subunits in superficial zone chondrocytes. These experiments support the hypothesis that functional BK channels are present in chondrocytes and may be involved in mechanotransduction and chemotransduction.
Lewis R, May H, Mobasheri A, Barrett-Jolley R (2013) Chondrocyte channel transcriptomics: do microarray data fit with expression and functional data?, Channels (Austin) 7 (6) pp. 459-467
To date, a range of ion channels have been identified in chondrocytes using a number of different techniques, predominantly electrophysiological and/or biomolecular; each of these has its advantages and disadvantages. Here we aim to compare and contrast the data available from biophysical and microarray experiments. This letter analyses recent transcriptomics datasets from chondrocytes, accessible from the European Bioinformatics Institute (EBI). We discuss whether such bioinformatic analysis of microarray datasets can potentially accelerate identification and discovery of ion channels in chondrocytes. The ion channels which appear most frequently across these microarray datasets are discussed, along with their possible functions. We discuss whether functional or protein data exist which support the microarray data. A microarray experiment comparing gene expression in osteoarthritis and healthy cartilage is also discussed and we verify the differential expression of 2 of these genes, namely the genes encoding large calcium-activated potassium (BK) and aquaporin channels.
Lewis R, Gentles L, Barrett-Jolley R (2012) Contribution of the Epithelial Sodium Channel to Chondrocyte Regulatory Volume Increase, BIOPHYSICAL JOURNAL 102 (3) pp. 681A-681A CELL PRESS
Lewis R, Feetham CH, Barrett-Jolley R (2011) Cell volume regulation in chondrocytes., Cell Physiol Biochem 28 (6) pp. 1111-1122
Chondrocytes are the cells within cartilage which produce and maintain the extracellular matrix. Volume regulation in these cells is vital to their function and occurs in several different physiological and pathological contexts. Firstly, chondrocytes exist within an environment of changing osmolarity and compressive loads. Secondly, in osteoarthritic joint failure, cartilage water content changes and there is a notable increase in chondrocyte apoptosis. Thirdly, endochondral ossification requires chondrocyte swelling in association with hypertrophy. Regulatory volume decrease (RVD) and regulatory volume increase (RVI) have both been observed in articular chondrocytes and this review focuses on the mechanisms identified to account for these. There has been evidence so far to suggest TRPV4 is central to RVD; however other elements of the pathway have not yet been identified. Unlike RVD, RVI appears less robust in articular chondrocytes and there have been fewer mechanistic studies; the primary focus being on the Na(+)-K(+)-2Cl(-) co-transporter. The clinical significance of chondrocyte volume regulation remains unproven. Importantly however, transcript abundances of several ion channels implicated in volume control are changed in chondrocytes from osteoarthritic cartilage. A critical question is whether disturbances of volume regulation mechanisms lead to, result from or are simply coincidental to cartilage damage.
Lewis R, Feetham CH, Gentles L, Penny J, Tregilgas L, Tohami W, Mobasheri A, Barrett-Jolley R (2013) Benzamil sensitive ion channels contribute to volume regulation in canine chondrocytes., Br J Pharmacol 168 (7) pp. 1584-1596
BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: Chondrocytes exist within cartilage and serve to maintain the extracellular matrix. It has been postulated that osteoarthritic (OA) chondrocytes lose the ability to regulate their volume, affecting extracellular matrix production. In previous studies, we identified expression of epithelial sodium channels (ENaC) in human chondrocytes, but their function remained unknown. Although ENaC typically has Na(+) transport roles, it is also involved in the cell volume regulation of rat hepatocytes. ENaC is a member of the degenerin (Deg) family, and ENaC/Deg-like channels have a low conductance and high sensitivity to benzamil. In this study, we investigated whether canine chondrocytes express functional ENaC/Deg-like ion channels and, if so, what their function may be. EXPERIMENTAL APPROACH: Canine chondrocytes were harvested from dogs killed for unassociated welfare reasons. We used immunohistochemistry and patch-clamp electrophysiology to investigate ENaC expression and video microscopy to analyse the effects of pharmacological inhibition of ENaC/Deg on cell volume regulation. KEY RESULTS: Immunofluorescence showed that canine chondrocytes expressed ENaC protein. Single-channel recordings demonstrated expression of a benzamil-sensitive Na(+) conductance (9 pS), and whole-cell experiments show this to be approximately 1.5 nS per cell with high selectivity for Na(+) . Benzamil hyperpolarized chondrocytes by approximately 8 mV with a pD2 8.4. Chondrocyte regulatory volume decrease (RVI) was inhibited by benzamil (pD2 7.5) but persisted when extracellular Na(+) ions were replaced by Li(+) . CONCLUSION AND IMPLICATIONS: Our data suggest that benzamil inhibits RVI by reducing the influx of Na(+) ions through ENaC/Deg-like ion channels and present ENaC/Deg as a possible target for pharmacological modulation of chondrocyte volume.
Mobasheri A, Lewis R, Ferreira-Mendes A, Rufino A, Dart C, Barrett-Jolley R (2012) Potassium channels in articular chondrocytes., Channels (Austin) 6 (6) pp. 416-425
Chondrocytes are the resident cells of cartilage, which synthesize and maintain the extracellular matrix. The range of known potassium channels expressed by these unique cells is continually increasing. Since chondrocytes are non-excitable, and do not need to be repolarized following action potentials, the function of potassium channels in these cells has, until recently, remained completely unknown. However, recent advances in both traditional physiology and "omic" technologies have enhanced our knowledge and understanding of the chondrocyte channelome. A large number of potassium channels have been identified and a number of putative, but credible, functions have been proposed. Members of each of the potassium channel sub-families (calcium activated, inward rectifier, voltage-gated and tandem pore) have all been identified. Mechanotransduction, cell volume regulation, apoptosis and chondrogenesis all appear to involve potassium channels. Since evidence suggests that potassium channel gene transcription is altered in osteoarthritis, future studies are needed that investigate potassium channels as potential cellular biomarkers and therapeutic targets for treatment of degenerative joint conditions.
Lewis R, Purves G, Crossley J, Barrett-Jolley R (2010) Modelling the Membrane Potential Dependence on Non-Specific Cation Channels in Canine Articular Chondrocytes, BIOPHYSICAL JOURNAL 98 (3) pp. 339A-339A CELL PRESS
Feetham CH, Nunn N, Lewis R, Dart C, Barrett-Jolley R (2014) TRPV4 and K(Ca) ion channels functionally couple as osmosensors in the paraventricular nucleus., Br J Pharmacol 172 (7) pp. 1753-1768
BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: Transient receptor potential vanilloid type 4 (TRPV4) and calcium-activated potassium channels (KCa ) mediate osmosensing in many tissues. Both TRPV4 and KCa channels are found in the paraventricular nucleus (PVN) of the hypothalamus, an area critical for sympathetic control of cardiovascular and renal function. Here, we have investigated whether TRPV4 channels functionally couple to KCa channels to mediate osmosensing in PVN parvocellular neurones and have characterized, pharmacologically, the subtype of KCa channel involved. EXPERIMENTAL APPROACH: We investigated osmosensing roles for TRPV4 and KCa channels in parvocellular PVN neurones using cell-attached and whole-cell electrophysiology in mouse brain slices and rat isolated PVN neurons. Intracellular Ca(2+) was recorded using Fura-2AM. The system was modelled in the NEURON simulation environment. KEY RESULTS: Hypotonic saline reduced action current frequency in hypothalamic slices; a response mimicked by TRPV4 channel agonists 4±PDD (1 ¼M) and GSK1016790A (100 nM), and blocked by inhibitors of either TRPV4 channels (RN1734 (5 ¼M) and HC067047 (300 nM) or the low-conductance calcium-activated potassium (SK) channel (UCL-1684 30 nM); iberiotoxin and TRAM-34 had no effect. Our model was compatible with coupling between TRPV4 and KCa channels, predicting the presence of positive and negative feedback loops. These predictions were verified using isolated PVN neurons. Both hypotonic challenge and 4±PDD increased intracellular Ca(2+) and UCL-1684 reduced the action of hypotonic challenge. CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLICATIONS: There was functional coupling between TRPV4 and SK channels in parvocellular neurones. This mechanism contributes to osmosensing in the PVN and may provide a novel pharmacological target for the cardiovascular or renal systems.
Feetham CH, Lewis R, Barrett-Jolley R (2013) TRPV4 and KCa: Modelling the Perfect Couple?, BIOPHYSICAL JOURNAL 104 (2) pp. 163A-163A CELL PRESS
Barrett-Jolley R, Lewis R, Fallman R, Mobasheri A (2010) The emerging chondrocyte channelome., Front Physiol 1
Chondrocytes are the resident cells of articular cartilage and are responsible for synthesizing a range of collagenous and non-collagenous extracellular matrix macromolecules. Whilst chondrocytes exist at low densities in the tissue (1-10% of the total tissue volume in mature cartilage) they are extremely active cells and are capable of responding to a range of mechanical and biochemical stimuli. These responses are necessary for the maintenance of viable cartilage and may be compromised in inflammatory diseases such as arthritis. Although chondrocytes are non-excitable cells their plasma membrane contains a rich complement of ion channels. This diverse channelome appears to be as complex as one might expect to find in excitable cells although, in the case of chondrocytes, their functions are far less well understood. The ion channels so far identified in chondrocytes include potassium channels (K(ATP), BK, K(v), and SK), sodium channels (epithelial sodium channels, voltage activated sodium channels), transient receptor potential calcium or non-selective cation channels and chloride channels. In this review we describe this emerging channelome and discuss the possible functions of a range of chondrocyte ion channels.
Lewis R, Asplin KE, Bruce G, Dart C, Mobasheri A, Barrett-Jolley R (2011) The role of the membrane potential in chondrocyte volume regulation., J Cell Physiol 226 (11) pp. 2979-2986
Many cell types have significant negative resting membrane potentials (RMPs) resulting from the activity of potassium-selective and chloride-selective ion channels. In excitable cells, such as neurones, rapid changes in membrane permeability underlie the generation of action potentials. Chondrocytes have less negative RMPs and the role of the RMP is not clear. Here we examine the basis of the chondrocyte RMP and possible physiological benefits. We demonstrate that maintenance of the chondrocyte RMP involves gadolinium-sensitive cation channels. Pharmacological inhibition of these channels causes the RMP to become more negative (100 µM gadolinium: ”V(m) = -30 ± 4 mV). Analysis of the gadolinium-sensitive conductance reveals a high permeability to calcium ions (PCa/PNa H80) with little selectivity between monovalent ions; similar to that reported elsewhere for TRPV5. Detection of TRPV5 by PCR and immunohistochemistry and the sensitivity of the RMP to the TRPV5 inhibitor econazole (”V(m) = -18 ± 3 mV) suggests that the RMP may be, in part, controlled by TRPV5. We investigated the physiological advantage of the relatively positive RMP using a mathematical model in which membrane stretch activates potassium channels allowing potassium efflux to oppose osmotic water uptake. At very negative RMP potassium efflux is negligible, but at more positive RMP it is sufficient to limit volume increase. In support of our model, cells clamped at -80 mV and challenged with a reduced osmotic potential swelled approximately twice as much as cells at +10 mV. The positive RMP may be a protective adaptation that allows chondrocytes to respond to the dramatic osmotic changes, with minimal changes in cell volume.
Lewis R, Barrett-Jolley R Changes in Membrane Receptors and Ion Channels as Potential Biomarkers for Osteoarthritis., Frontiers in physiology 6
Osteoarthritis (OA), a degenerative joint condition, is currently difficult to detect early enough for any of the current treatment options to be completely successful. Early diagnosis of this disease could increase the numbers of patients who are able to slow its progression. There are now several diseases where membrane protein biomarkers are used for early diagnosis. The numbers of proteins in the membrane is vast and so it is a rich source of potential biomarkers for OA but we need more knowledge of these before they can be considered practical biomarkers. How are they best measured and are they selective to OA or even certain types of OA? The first step in this process is to identify membrane proteins that change in OA. Here, we summarize several ion channels and receptors that change in OA models and/or OA patients, and may thus be considered candidates as novel membrane biomarkers of OA.
Lewis R, Barrett-Jolley R (2014) Ion channel modulation of chondrocyte cell volume regulation, FASEB JOURNAL 28 (1) FEDERATION AMER SOC EXP BIOL
Staunton CA, Lewis R, Barrett-Jolley R (2013) Ion channels and osteoarthritic pain: potential for novel analgesics., Curr Pain Headache Rep 17 (12)
Osteoarthritis (OA) is a debilitating chronic condition widely prevalent in ageing populations. Because the pathology of the disease includes cartilage erosion and joint remodelling, OA patients experience a great deal of pain. Despite numerous studies, details of OA are frequently inseparable from other types of chronic pain, and its causes are unknown. In most circumstances in OA, the cartilage lacks afferent innervation, although other joint tissues contain nociceptive neurones. In addition to physical joint damage, there is a strong element of joint inflammation. Genetic studies have identified several associations between ion channels and OA pain, including NaV1.7, P2X7, and TRPV1, but several other channels have also been implicated. Many ion channels involved with OA pain are common to those seen in inflammatory pain. This review considers causes of OA pain and discusses three possible pain-reducing strategies involving ion channel modulation: chondroprotection, innate afferent nerve inhibition, and inhibition of inflammatory hyperalgesia. Future targets for OA pain analgesia could involve a number of ion channels.
King Alice A. K., Matta-Domjan Brigitta, Large Matthew J., Matta Csaba, Ogilvie Sean P., Bardi Niki, Byrne Hugh J., Zakhidov Anvar, Jurewicz Izabela, Velliou Eirini, Lewis Rebecca, La Ragione Roberto, Dalton Alan (2017) Pristine carbon nanotube scaffolds for the growth of chondrocytes,Journal of Materials Chemistry B 5 (41) pp. 8178-8182 Royal Society of Chemistry
The effective growth of chondrocytes and the formation of cartilage is demonstrated on scaffolds of aligned carbon nanotubes; as two dimensional sheets and on three dimensional textiles. Raman spectroscopy is used to confirm the presence of chondroitin sulfate, which is critical in light of the unreliability of traditional dye based assays for carbon nanomaterial substrates. The textile exhibits a very high affinity for chondrocyte growth and could present a route to implantable, flexible cartilage scaffolds with tuneable mechanical properties.
Lewis Rebecca, Gomez Alvarez Constanza B., Rayman Margaret, Lanham-New Susan, Woolf Anthony, Mobasheri Ali (2019) Strategies for optimising musculoskeletal health in the 21st century,BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders 20 164 pp. 1-15 BMC

We live in a world with an ever-increasing ageing population. Studying healthy ageing and reducing the socioeconomic impact of age-related diseases is a key research priority for the industrialised and developing countries, along with a better mechanistic understanding of the physiology and pathophysiology of ageing that occurs in a number of age-related musculoskeletal disorders. Arthritis and musculoskeletal disorders constitute a major cause of disability and morbidity globally and result in enormous costs for our health and social-care systems.

By gaining a better understanding of healthy musculoskeletal ageing and the risk factors associated with premature ageing and senescence, we can provide better care and develop new and better-targeted therapies for common musculoskeletal disorders. This review is the outcome of a two-day multidisciplinary, international workshop sponsored by the Institute of Advanced Studies entitled ?Musculoskeletal Health in the 21st Century? and held at the University of Surrey from 30th June-1st July 2015.

The aim of this narrative review is to summarise current knowledge of musculoskeletal health, ageing and disease and highlight strategies for prevention and reducing the impact of common musculoskeletal diseases.

Lewis Rebecca, Li Jiaqi, McCormick Peter, L-H Huang Christopher, Jeevaratnam Kamalan (2019) Is the sigma-1 receptor a potential pharmacological target for cardiac pathologies? A systematic review,IJC Heart & Vasculature 26 Elsevier
Sigma-1 receptors are ligand-regulated chaperone proteins, involved in several cellular mechanisms. The aim of this systematic review was to examine the effects that the sigma-1 receptor has on the cardiovascular system. The interaction targets and proposed mechanisms of action of sigma-1 receptors were explored, with the aim of determining if the sigma-1 receptor is a potential pharmacological target for cardiac pathologies. This systematic review was conducted according to the PRISMA guidelines and these were used to critically appraise eligible studies. Pubmed and Scopus were systematically searched for articles investigating sigma-1 receptors in the cardiovascular system. Papers identified by the search terms were then subject to analysis against pre-determined inclusion criteria. 23 manuscripts met the inclusion criteria and were included in this review. The experimental platforms, experimental techniques utilised and the results of the studies were summarised. The sigma-1 receptor is found to be implicated in cardioprotection, via various mechanisms including stimulating the Akt-eNOS pathway, and reduction of Ca2+ leakage into the cytosol via modulating certain calcium channels. Sigma-1 receptors are also found to modulate other cardiac ion channels including different subtypes of potassium and sodium channels and have been shown to modulate intracardiac neuron excitability. The sigma-1 receptor is a potential therapeutic target for treatment of cardiac pathologies, particularly cardiac hypertrophy. We therefore suggest investigating the cardioprotective mechanisms of sigma-1 receptor function, alongside proposed potential ligands that can stimulate these functions.