Our research focuses upon understanding physiology in terms of health and disease. We use diverse experimental approaches to determine mechanisms of disease development, to identify new biomarkers of diseases and explore novel therapeutic approaches.
Our current research is focused upon neurological diseases, cancer, the early life origins of adult disease, immunological diseases and infectious diseases.
We utilize our understanding of the disease process to design novel treatments, or re-purpose currently available treatments. We use molecular modelling to better understand mechanisms of drug action, and we work to understand how environmental factors may lead to future disease.
Immunology research cluster
Lung inflammation and infection
Investigating the role of Cationic Host Defence Peptides in the innate response to viral infection of the lung. Development of novel peptide based therapeutics to address antimicrobial resistance (Dr Peter Barlow).
Inflammatory Bowel Disease
We are investigating the innate immune pathways that underpin inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Current research focusses upon: 1. The role of Autophagy in IBD: Dysregulation of autophagy, an intracellular pathway which delivers micro-organisms to lysosomes for degradation, is strongly linked to IBD. 2. The role of antimicrobial peptides in IBD: An imbalance in antimicrobial defence is a critical factor in the development of IBD. A better understanding of the pathogenesis of IBD will lead to the identification of novel therapeutic targets (Dr Craig Stevens).
Adoptive T Cell Therapy of Autoimmune Disease
Using gene-transfer to redirect the specificity of regulatory T cells to target and suppress autoimmune disease. Significant progress made toward clinical application to treat multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis, this work is also broadly applicable to a wide range of immunopathology (transplantation, graft-versus-host disease, allergy) (Dr Graham Wright).
Neurological and cardiovascular research cluster:
Molecular approaches to investigate the aetiology of stroke in an effort to identify novel molecular markers and potential new therapeutic targets to minimise damage caused by excitotoxicity following an infarct. Current research focuses on the modified chloride movement and GABAergic signalling network during, and after, an ischaemic stroke ( Dr Amy Poole).
Neurological signalling outside the central nervous system
A detailed investigation into excitatory GABAergic signalling in the control of uterine function with relevance to understanding the molecular mechanisms underlying pre-term labour (Dr Amy Poole).
Early life development on pre-frontal cortex and cerebellum (Dr Claire Garden).
Developmental origins of adult disease cluster
Metabolic and reproductive health
Identification of the contributions (and mechanisms) of in utero steroid signalling to development of future metabolic disease (including obesity), and reproductive disease (PCOS). Identification of biomarkers of aberrant fetal steroid/chemical exposure (Dr Mick Rae).
Understanding how prenatal steroid hormones may contribute to the etiology of neurodevelopmental disorders (e.g. Autism Spectrum Disorder, schizophrenia) (Dr Claire Garden).
Cancer research and drug design cluster:
The Hypoxic microenvironment
Investigating biochemical adaptations to tumour microenvironment which drive oncogenic glycosylation and aggressive growth (pancreatic and breast adenocarcinomas). Identification of molecular mechanisms (eg glycosylation signatures) and generation of new biomarkers of disease. (Dr Jenny Fraser).
Drug design, synthesis and targeting: Design & Synthesis of novel, anti-tumour pro-drug compounds with both theranostic and diagnostic capabilities. Investigation into improving the targeting capabilities whilst minimizing toxicity as well as pharmacokinetic characterization of the metabolites by chromatography. (Dr David Mincher, Ms. Maria Gauci, Dr Agnes Turnbull). Development of new therapeutic targets to decrease metastasis of cancer cells (Dr Sharon Vass) and understand cancer cell signaling molecules (Dr Amy Poole). Exploiting microbial systems for delivery of therapeutic proteins (Dr Clare Taylor). Development of novel peptide based therapeutics to address antimicrobial resistance (Dr Peter Barlow). Identification and exploitation of parasite metabolism in the design of novel anthelmintics for both human and animal health (Dr Lorna Proudfoot).
Computer-aided drug design
Computational biological chemistry approaches are used to investigate the molecular and cellular mode of action of small molecules and reveal the details of their interactions with proteins or enzymes. Current research topics include investigations of novel selective COX-2 non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, the cellular mode of action of metformin (type 2 diabetes) and activation of artemisinin (antimalarial) (Dr Stefan Erhardt).
Infectious diseases cluster:
Host-pathogen interactions: Metal ion sensing in Salmonella and Pregnancy hormone sensing in Listeria. Development of novel anti-virulence mechanisms to overcome antibiotic resistance (Dr Clare Taylor). Bacterial infections and reproductive failure: Identification of the contributions (and mechanisms) of prior exposure and/ or active infection with bacterial pathogens (e.g. Chlamydia) to reproductive failure (infertility and miscarriage). Identification of immune pathways contributing to disease pathogenesis (Dr Nick Wheelhouse).
Investigating the role of Cationic Host Defence Peptides in the innate response to viral infection of the lung (Dr Peter Barlow). Bacteriophages – phage therapy & biocontrol: Investigating bacteriophages infecting pathogenic bacteria with focus on specific phage proteins, in addition to whole phage approach. Medical/dental applications, also medical devices (equipment/prosthetics/implants) – investigating biocontrol potential as antibiotic supplementary/alternative therapy. (Dr Sophie Foley and Dr Samantha Campbell Casey).
Environmental Pollutants and health cluster
The Centre for Nano Safety addresses potential human and environmental effects of nanomaterials. Four key areas of activity are immunotoxicology, environmental toxicology, microbiology, and reproductive and environmental toxicity, all from the context of nanomaterial exposure (DrGary Hutchison and Dr Eva Malone).
The Environment as a Reservoir of Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria
Role of human activities (eg sewage sludge application to agricultural land) on the prevalence of antibiotic resistant in the environment. Assessment of rivers, coastal waters and beaches as reservoirs and routes of transmission of antibiotic resistant hospital pathogens (Dr Donald Morrison).