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Professors Dame Frances Ashcroft and Denis Noble have been elected Fellows of the the International Union of Physiological Sciences (IUPS) Academy of Physiology in the inaugural year of its Fellowships.

To celebrate and publicise the important contributions made by physiologists to science and health, the IUPS Academy of Physiology was established in 2021. In June, the IUPS announced its inaugural list of Honorary Fellows and Fellows to the Academy, which represents the diversity and excellence of worldwide physiology. DPAG is delighted to report that two of our Professors are amongst the 30 new Fellows elected by the IUPS; Dame Professor Frances Ashcroft FRS FMedSci and Professor Denis Noble CBE FRS FMedSci.

The Fellowships have been awarded to those who have made exceptional contributions to physiological Sciences, in the form of original discovery, sustained excellent contributions to scholarship, or (exceptionally) those who in other ways have rendered a conspicuous service to physiology. 

Professor Ashcroft is renowned for her research into ion channels, particularly in the context of type 2 diabetes. One of her landmark discoveries identified the missing link connecting an increase in blood sugar levels to the secretion of the hormone insulin – this link was the KATP channel. Her studies have helped people with a rare inherited form of diabetes caused by ion channel mutations to switch from insulin to tablet therapy. She was recently profiled on a new departmental website marking the centenary of women making history at Oxford.

Professor Noble is renowned for discovering the main potassium channel currents in the heart and undertaking a quantitative analysis of their role in controlling repolarisation and pacemaker activity, which became the first mathematical model of cardiac cells. The work was later developed to become the canonical models on which more than 100 cardiac cell models are based today. He also discovered the ionic mechanisms by which adrenaline increases heart rate. He has served two terms as President of the IUPS, in 2009 and 2013. 

A Fellowship has also been awarded to former DPAG member Professor Dario DiFrancesco, who, while a member of the Department, published papers with Dr Hilary Brown and Dr Susan Noble first describing the 'funny current', a novel and very important pacemaker current, the discovery of which launched a revolution in understanding pacemaker activity.

Following these elections, there are plans for an annual election, limited to 30 Fellows, maintaining the immensely high standard set by the inaugural Fellows.

Read more on the IUPS website.

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