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Cell and Molecular Biology

Our dynamic and highly accomplished Cell and Molecular Biology research group studies molecular mechanisms important for cellular function in health and disease with a special emphasis on chronic diseases such as obesity, type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer and infertility.

Research themes

Cardiovascular Disease

The cardiovascular theme investigates molecular mechanisms contributing to atherosclerosis (leading to heart attacks) and restenosis after heart bypass surgery in the ageing population and as a complication of diabetes.

We study inflammatory signaling pathways, angiogenesis, apoptosis and epigenetic modulators (e.g. non coding RNA), on functional responses of endothelial cells, vascular smooth muscle cells and platelets.

We are also developing multicellular models useful in tissue engineering.

Cardiac Electrophysiology

The heart is one of the vital organs in the body that pumps blood around the body.

To perform this function adequately, the heart has to adapt to the changing needs of the body by altering the strength of contraction as well as the heart rate. Both these parameters are regulated by the transport of ions, particularly Na+, K+ and Ca2+, across the surface membrane of the single cells (cardiac myocytes) that make up the heart.

Our main research interests are focused on how the transport of these ions alters the electrical activity of the heart to alter the heart rate, and also how ion transport controls the concentration of intracellular Ca2+ ions to determine the strength of contraction of the heart.

Cartilage Physiology

Cartilage that lines the end of joints is made up of cells called chondrocytes, which produce components of the extracellular matrix that helps maintain healthy joints.

We are interested in the mechanisms that are responsible for the biosynthesis and transport of components of the extracellular matrix, and their regulation by hormones and drugs that could prove useful in the treatment of joint disease such as osteoarthritis.


Neuroscience

In the neuroscience research theme we are investigating molecular mechanisms in body weight regulation.

The hypothalamus is the brain centre that is important in the regulation of body weight and food intake and whose dysfunction is associated with metabolic disorders such as type 2 diabetes and obesity.

We are interested in how the hypothalamus regulates long-term changes in energy balance and growth and integrates external environmental signals, such as the light/dark cycle or diet, to influence body weight and appetite.


Genetic and Reproductive Toxicology

There is considerable interest in genetic defects and disorders of male reproduction, and our work addresses such issues.

We can distinguish heritable genetic damage occurring preconceptionally from that induced during pregnancy and were the first to demonstrate that offspring could inherit damaged DNA from their smoking fathers. Thus, public health advice is now that hopeful Dads should not smoke for 3 months before conception.

There is a good correlation between DNA damage in sperm and lymphocytes, and we have devised a blood test to predict the chance of developing cancer based on DNA damage levels in these white blood cells.

We helped prove that sperm deliver not only DNA-encoded information to the egg at fertilisation but also epigenetic signals (heritable information not contained in the DNA). We are now investigating epigenetic damage in reproductive diseases.

Using bioinformatics, we discovered a protein expressed in the testes only when germ cells are dying and are studying its significance in infertility.


Diet and Cancer

Cancer is a complex disease with many contributing factors.

Whilst it is clear that genetics plays a key role in determining predisposition to developing cancer, environmental factors also play a role and more importantly are modifiable risk factors.

For the cells lining the colon their environment is determined by the foods we eat. There is convincing evidence to show that foods containing dietary fibre decrease the risk of developing colon cancer, whilst red meat and alcoholic drinks increase this risk.

Research within the diet and cancer group is focused on understanding the molecular basis of these effects.

In particular, we are interested in how food products in the colon interact with the gut microbionta to bring about changes in the normal life cycle of the colon epithelial cells.  


Imaging

Cells and microbiological species are too small to see with the naked eye and so instruments to magnify or otherwise visualize small biological species are required in many aspects of biosciences.

This school has a visualization suite equipped with optical and confocal microscopes, access to scanning and tunneling electron miscopy and atomic force microscopy. Developing imaging techniques to improve our visualisation of the micro.


Group members

The following international researchers work together in the Cell and Molecular biology group:

 

Title and name:
Professor Diana Anderson
Position:
Professor of Biomedical Science and Established Chair
Email address:
Telephone number :
Work01274 233569
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Title and name:
Dr Anne Graham
Position:
Associate Dean Research and Knowledge Transfer
Email address:
Telephone number :
Work+44 (0) 1274 233570
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Title and name:
Dr Gisela Helfer
Position:
Lecturer in Medical Sciences
Email address:
Telephone number :
Work+44 (0) 1274 232149
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Title and name:
Dr Kirsten Riches
Position:
Lecturer in Biochemistry
Email address:
Telephone number :
Work+44 (0) 1274 232145
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Title and name:
Dr Jennifer Waby
Position:
Lecturer in Medical Sciences
Email address:
Telephone number :
Work01274 235510
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Title and name:
Dr Martin Brinkworth
Position:
Senior Lecturer in Biomedical Sciences
Email address:
Telephone number :
Work01274 233584
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Title and name:
Dr Munir Hussain
Position:
Senior Lecturer in Biomedical Science
Email address:
Telephone number :
Work01274 236923
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Title and name:
Dr Sobia Kauser
Position:
Lecturer in Biomedical Science
Email address:
Telephone number :
Work01274 234685
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Title and name:
Dr Mojgan Najafzadeh
Position:
Research Fellow in Medical Research
Email address:
Telephone number :
Work+44 (0) 1274 236290
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PhD research

For PhD opportunities in this area see our list of available projects.