School of Life & Health Sciences
Cell and Tissue Biomedical Research
Regulation of cellular ageing by obesity and metabolic disorders
Intra abdominal adipose tissue (IAAT) is associated with significant co-morbidities of the ageing population including diabetes, CVD and cancer. Obesity has previously been shown to reduce lifespan by approximately ten years and to enhance the ageing process. Of the adipose tissue that we store, the IAAT is more commonly associated with these co-morbidities. IAAT is accrued during the process of ageing, and when individuals reach approximately the age of 60, the ratio of IAAT to subcutaneous adipose tissue (SCAT) increases, predisposing elderly individuals to the disease states mentioned earlier, with a significantly higher predisposition amongst south Asians than Caucasians. Little is known as to why this happens, or as to the mechanisms by which IAAT increases the ageing process. As the proportion of the population over pensionable age is projected to significantly increase in the future, it is essential that a better understanding of this phenomenon is gained so that targets for therapeutic/lifestyle intervention can be identified. To achieve these objectives, a cohort of healthy volunteers and type 2 diabetic/obese subjects is being recruited from clinics at Heartlands hospital in Birmingham. This cohort will also include individuals of varying age. Subjects will have their body fat analysed using an electronic body composition analyser, and a sample of blood will be taken. From this blood serum, RNA and DNA will be collected so that markers of cellular ageing including telomere length be assayed (as a measure of cellular ageing). Analysis of these markers will allow a detailed analysis of the relationship between IAAT and cellular ageing.
Frailty in older adults with diabetes
Functional decline associated with the ageing process and the onset of frailty is a significant cause of morbidity and mortality in the UK. Estimates suggest that as many as 8.5% of women and 4.5% of men known as ‘young-old’ (65-74) in the UK can be classified as being frail. Diabetes and frailty may be causally related and operate through each of the key components of the frailty phenotype or via associated medical co-morbidities. The presence of frailty in a setting of diabetes increases the level of disability and leads to poorer clinical outcomes.
Role of aquaporins in breast cancer
Aquaporins (AQPs) are a family of membrane proteins that act as channels for water transport. A sub-set of these channels, the aquaglyceroporins (AQgPs), can transport other small molecules including glycerol. This AQgP role in glycerol transport across the cell membrane is not yet clearly understood. Initial research into AQgPs has shown that some are expressed in metabolic tissues, as well as some cancerous tissues. Our current study is fully investigating the role of all AQgPs in breast cancer cell viability, mobility and invasiveness.
I currently hold Honorary Research Fellowships at Warwick Medical School, University of Warwick and Heart of England Foundation NHS Trust Birmingham. I am also a Visiting Lecturer at the Institute of Diabetes for Older People, Bedfordshire University.
I was awarded the 2005 Eli Lilly Prize for Basic Science, Diabetes UK Annual Professional Conference and in 2012 was part of the team awarded Best Scientific Poster by the British Microcirculation Society.
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