Professor Stewart Head

Professor Stewart Head

Adjunct Professor - School of Medicine,
Dean's Unit - School of Medicine

Chair of Physiology,
School of Medicine



  • PhD Bristol University (UK)

Organisational Unit (School / Division)

  • Dean's Unit - School of Medicine
  • School of Medicine


Phone: (02) 4620 3306
Mobile: 0437349176
Location: 30.2.29

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Previous Teaching Areas

  • 400861 Foundations of Medicine 1, 2019
  • 400862 Foundations of Medicine 2, 2019


Chapters in Books

  • Friedrich, O. and Head, S. (2017), 'Quantitative ratiometric Ca2+ imaging to assess cell viability', Cell Viability Assays: Methods and Protocols, Humana Press 9781493969593.
  • Head, S. (2012), 'A two stage model of skeletal muscle necrosis in muscular dystrophy : the role of fiber branching in the terminal stage', Muscular Dystrophy, InTech 9789535106036.
  • Anderson, J., Head, S. and Morley, J. (2012), 'Duchenne muscular dystrophy and brain function', Muscular Dystrophy, InTech 9789535106036.

Journal Articles

  • Redwan, A., Kiriaev, L., Kueh, S., Morley, J., Houweling, P., Perry, B. and Head, S. (2023), 'Six weeks of N-acetylcysteine antioxidant in drinking water decreases pathological fiber branching in MDX mouse dystrophic fast-twitch skeletal muscle', Frontiers in Physiology, vol 14 .
  • Haug, M., Reischl, B., Nuebler, S., Kiriaev, L., Mazala, D., Houweling, P., North, K., Friedrich, O. and Head, S. (2022), 'Absence of the Z-disc protein a-actinin-3 impairs the mechanical stability of Actn3KO mouse fast-twitch muscle fibres without altering their contractile properties or twitch kinetics', Skeletal Muscle, vol 12, no 1 .
  • Kiriaev, L., Houweling, P., North, K. and Head, S. (2022), 'Loss of a-actinin-3 confers protection from eccentric contraction damage in fast-twitch EDL muscles from aged mdx dystrophic mice by reducing pathological fibre branching', Human Molecular Genetics, vol 31, no 9 , pp 1417 - 1429.
  • Chan, S., Kueh, S., Morley, J. and Head, S. (2022), 'Sarcoplasmic reticulum calcium handling in unbranched, immediately post-necrotic fast-twitch mdx fibres is similar to wild-type littermates', Experimental Physiology, vol 107, no 6 , pp 601 - 614.
  • Ronaldson, S., Stephenson, D. and Head, S. (2022), 'Calcium and strontium contractile activation properties of single skinned skeletal muscle fibres from elderly women 66-90 years of age', Journal of Muscle Research and Cell Motility, vol 43, no 4 , pp 173 - 183.
  • Kiriaev, L., Perry, B., Mahns, D., Shortland, P., Redwan, A., Morley, J. and Head, S. (2021), 'Minocycline treatment reduces mass and force output from fast-twitch mouse muscles and inhibits myosin production in C2C12 myotubes', Frontiers in Physiology, vol 12 .
  • Kiriaev, L., Kueh, S., Morley, J., Houweling, P., Chan, S., North, K. and Head, S. (2021), 'Dystrophin-negative slow-twitch soleus muscles are not susceptible to eccentric contraction induced injury over the lifespan of the mdx mouse', American Journal of Physiology: Cell Physiology, vol 321, no 4 , pp 704 - 720.
  • Friedrich, O., Haug, M., Reischl, B., Prolss, G., Kiriaev, L., Head, S. and Reid, M. (2019), 'Single muscle fibre biomechanics and biomechatronics : the challenges, the pitfalls and the future', International Journal of Biochemistry and Cell Biology, vol 114 .
  • Haug, M., Reischl, B., Prolss, G., Pollmann, C., Buckert, T., Keidel, C., Schurmann, S., Hock, M., Rupitsch, S., Heckel, M., Poschel, T., Scheibel, T., Haynl, C., Kiriaev, L., Head, S. and Friedrich, O. (2018), 'The MyoRobot : a novel automated biomechatronics system to assess voltage/Ca2+ biosensors and active/passive biomechanics in muscle and biomaterials', Biosensors and Bioelectronics, vol 102 , pp 589 - 599.
  • Kiriaev, L., Kueh, S., Morley, J., North, K., Houweling, P. and Head, S. (2018), 'Branched fibers from old fast-twitch dystrophic muscles are the sites of terminal damage in muscular dystrophy', American Journal of Physiology: Cell Physiology, vol 314, no 6 , pp 662 - 674.
  • Garton, F., Houweling, P., Vukcevic, D., Meehan, L., Lee, F., Lek, M., Roeszler, K., Hogarth, M., Tiong, C., Zannino, D., Yang, N., Leslie, S., Gregorevic, P., Head, S., Seto, J. and North, K. (2018), 'The effect of ACTN3 gene doping on skeletal muscle performance', The American Journal of Human Genetics, vol 102, no 5 , pp 845 - 857.
  • Hogarth, M., Houweling, P., Thomas, K., Gordish-Dressman, H., Bello, L., Vishwanathan, V., Chidambaranathan, S., Biggar, W., McAdam, L., Mah, J., Tulinius, M., Cnaan, A., Morgenroth, L., Leshner, R., Tesi-Rocha, C., Thangarajh, M., Duong, T., Kornberg, A., Ryan, M., Nevo, Y., Dubrovsky, A., Clemens, P., Abdel-Hamid, H., Connolly, A., Pestronk, A., Teasley, J., Bertorini, T., Webster, R., Kolski, H., Kuntz, N., Driscoll, S., Bodensteiner, J., Carlo, J., Gorni, K., Lotze, T., Day, J., Karachunski, P., Henricson, E., Abresch, R., McDonald, C., Pegoraro, E., Hoffman, E., Head, S. and North, K. (2017), 'Evidence for ACTN3 as a genetic modifier of Duchenne muscular dystrophy', Nature Communications, vol 8 .
  • Head, S. (2017), 'Antioxidant therapy in a mouse model of Duchenne muscular dystrophy : some promising results but with a weighty caveat', Journal of Physiology, vol 595, no 23 , pp 7015 - 7015.
  • Hogarth, M., Garton, F., Houweling, P., Tukiainen, T., Lek, M., Macarthur, D., Seto, J., Quinlan, K., Yang, N., Head, S. and North, K. (2016), 'Analysis of the ACTN3 heterozygous genotype suggests that a-actinin-3 controls sarcomeric composition and muscle function in a dose-dependent fashion', Human Molecular Genetics, vol 25, no 5 , pp 866 - 877.
  • Head, S., Chan, S., Houweling, P., Quinlan, K., Murphy, R., Wagner, S., Friedrich, O. and North, K. (2015), 'Altered Ca2+ kinetics associated with a-actinin-3 deficiency may explain positive selection for ACTN3 null allele in human evolution', PLoS Genetics, vol 11, no 1 .
  • Cooper, S. and Head, S. (2015), 'Membrane injury and repair in the muscular dystrophies', Neuroscientist, vol 21, no 6 , pp 653 - 668.
  • Houweling, P., Seto, J., Garton, F., Quinlan, K., Head, S. and North, K. (2015), 'A gene for speed : the influence of ACTN3 on muscle performance in health and disease', Neuromuscular Disorders, vol 25, no Supplement 2 , pp 185 - 185.
  • Head, S., Houweling, P., Chan, S., Chen, G. and Hardeman, E. (2014), 'Properties of regenerated mouse extensor digitorum longus muscle following notexin injury', Experimental Physiology, vol 99, no 4 , pp 664 - 674.
  • Yu, Z., Tan, J., McMahon, A., Iismaa, S., Xiao, X., Kesteven, S., Reichelt, M., Mohl, M., Smith, N., Fatkin, D., Allen, D., Head, S., Graham, R. and Feneley, M. (2014), 'RhoA/ROCK signaling and pleiotropic a1A-adrenergic receptor regulation of cardiac contractility', PLoS One, vol 9, no 6 .
  • Head, S. and Arber, M. (2013), 'An active learning mammalian skeletal muscle lab demonstrating contractile and kinetic properties of fast- and slow-twitch muscle', Advances in Physiology Education, vol 37, no 4 , pp 405 - 414.
  • Lee, A., Anderson, J., Joya, J., Head, S., Pather, N., Kee, A., Gunning, P. and Hardeman, E. (2013), 'Aged skeletal muscle retains the ability to fully regenerate functional architecture', BioArchitecture, vol 3, no 2 , pp 25 - 37.
  • Yu, Z., Tan, J., McMahon, A., Iismaa, S., Xiao, X., Kesteven, S., Reichelt, M., Mohl, M., Dai, Y., Sketchley, A., Yang, L., Gong, H., Fatkin, D., Allen, D., Head, S., Graham, R. and Feneley, M. (2013), 'Studies of a mouse model of cardic c a1A-adrenergic receptor over expression provide evidence for a critical role of RhoA/ROCK signalling in cardiac contractility', Heart, Lung and Circulation, vol 22, no Supplement 1 , pp 59 - 59.
  • Head, S. (2012), 'Does skeletal muscle fiber branching play a role in the inability of old EDL dystrophic muscle to resist large passive stretches?', Journal of Applied Physiology, vol 112, no 2 , pp 331 - 331.
  • Kueh, S., Dempster, J., Head, S. and Morley, J. (2011), 'Reduced postsynaptic GABAA receptor number and enhanced gaboxadol induced change in holding currents in Purkinje cells of the dystrophin-deficient mdx mouse', Neurobiology of Disease, vol 43, no 3 , pp 558 - 564.
  • Head, S. and Ha, T. (2011), 'Acute inhibitory effects of clenbuterol on force, Ca 2+ transients and action potentials in rat soleus may not involve the B 2-adrenoceptor pathway', Clinical and Experimental Pharmacology and Physiology, vol 38, no 9 , pp 638 - 646.
  • Nikolova-Krstevski, V., Leimena, C., Xiao, X., Kesteven, S., Tan, J., Yeo, L., Yu, Z., Zhang, Q., Carlton, A., Head, S., Shanahan, C., Feneley, M. and Fatkin, D. (2011), 'Nesprin-1 and actin contribute to nuclear and cytoskeletal defects in lamin A/C-deficient cardiomyopathy', Journal of Molecular and Cellular Cardiology, vol 50, no 3 , pp 479 - 486.
  • Seto, J., Chan, S., Turner, N., MacArthur, D., Raftery, J., Berman, Y., Quinlan, K., Cooney, G., Head, S., Yang, N. and North, K. (2011), 'The effect of a-actinin-3 deficiency on muscle aging', Experimental Gerontology, vol 46, no 4 , pp 292 - 302.
  • Chan, S. and Head, S. (2011), 'The role of branched fibres in the pathogenesis of Duchenne muscular dystrophy', Experimental Physiology, vol 96, no 6 , pp 564 - 571.
  • Seto, J., Lek, M., Quinlan, K., Houwelling, P., Zheng, X., Garton, F., MacArthur, D., Raftery, J., Garvey, S., Hauser, M., Yang, N., Head, S. and North, K. (2011), 'Deficiency of a-actinin-3 is associated with increased susceptibility to contraction-induced damage and skeletal muscle remodeling', Human Molecular Genetics, vol 20, no 15 , pp 2914 - 2927.
  • Head, S., Greenaway, B. and Chan, S. (2011), 'Incubating isolated mouse EDL muscles with creatine improves force production and twitch kinetics in fatigue due to reduction in ionic strength', PLoS One, vol 6, no 8 .
  • Chan, S., Seto, J., Houweling, P., Yang, N., North, K. and Head, S. (2011), 'Properties of extensor digitorum longus muscle and skinned fibers from adult and aged male and female ACTN3 knockout mice', Muscle and Nerve, vol 43, no 1 , pp 37 - 48.
  • Head, S. (2011), 'Old men still have the skeletal muscle contractile function to get up and go even after they have had their leg in a cast', Journal of Physiology, vol 589, no 19 , pp 4639 - 4639.
  • Anderson, J., Morley, J. and Head, S. (2010), 'Enhanced homosynaptic LTD in cerebellar Purkinje cells of the dystrophic MDX mouse', Muscle and Nerve, vol 41, no 3 , pp 329 - 334.
  • Head, S. (2010), 'Branched fibres in old dystrophic mdx muscle are associated with mechanical weakening of the sarcolemma, abnormal Ca2+ transients and a breakdown of Ca2+ homeostasis during fatigue', Experimental Physiology, vol 95, no 5 , pp 641 - 656.
  • Kueh, S., Head, S. and Morley, J. (2008), 'GABAA receptor expression and inhibitory postsynaptic currents in cerebellar Purkinje cells in dystrophin-deficient mdx mice', Clinical and Experimental Pharmacology and Physiology, vol 35, no 2 , pp 207 - 210.
  • Chan, S., Seto, J., MacArthur, D., Yang, N., North, K. and Head, S. (2008), 'A gene for speed : contractile properties of isolated whole EDL muscle from an a-actinin-3 knockout mouse', American Journal of Physiology: Cell Physiology, vol 295, no 4 , pp 897 - 904.
  • MacArthur, D., Seto, J., Chan, S., Quinlan, K., Raftery, J., Turner, N., Nicholson, M., Kee, A., Hardeman, E., Gunning, P., Cooney, G., Head, S., Yang, N. and North, K. (2008), 'An Actn3 knockout mouse provides mechanistic insights into the association between a-actinin-3 deficiency and human athletic performance', Human Molecular Genetics, vol 17, no 8 , pp 1076 - 1086.

Conference Papers

  • Tan, C., Kueh, S., Head, S. and Morley, J. (2018), 'Miniature inhibitory postsynaptic current in cerebellar Purkinje cells of old dystrophic mdx mice', Australian Physiological Society. Meeting, Sydney, N.S.W..

My research is in the field of skeletal muscle physiology. In particular the area of muscle disease, studying the role of [Ca2]i and "branched" regenerated fibres in the pathophysiology and weakness of dystrophic skeletal muscles from the mdx mouse model of Duchenne muscular dystrophy.

My research involves mouse models and I normally use the EDL and soleus muscles as representative fast- and slow-twitch muscles to measure the contractile properties of intact isolated muscles and the skinned single fibre technique to investigate the properties of contractile proteins and sarcoplasmic reticulum. We also use the Ca2+ sensitive ratiometric dye fura-2 to look at Ca2+ kinetics in single enzymatically isolated FDB fibres.

Over the last 10 years I have been collaborating with Professor North’s group from the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute (Melbourne) in research into the role of the skeletal muscle Z line protein, alpha-actinin-3, using the homozygous Actn3 knockout mouse. The understanding of the consequences for skeletal muscle function of an absence of alpha- actinin-3, both in athletes and the general population, is of global importance given the polymorphism is present in more than 1.5 billion people worldwide.

This information has been contributed by Professor Head.

Previous Projects

Title: The effects of a-actinin-3 on muscle metabolism, human health and disease [Via Murdoch Childrens Institute]
  • National Health and Medical Research Council (ACRG)
Western Researchers: Stewart Head
Years: 2017-12-12 - 2023-08-01
ID: P00024683

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