Professor Dame Fances Ashcroft's research focuses on ATP-sensitive potassium (KATP) channels and their role in insulin secretion, in both health and disease. She is interested in how KATP channel function relates to channel structure, how cell metabolism regulates channel activity, and how mutations in KATP channel genes cause human disease. The ultimate goal is to elucidate how a rise in the blood glucose concentration stimulates the release of insulin from the pancreatic beta-cells, what goes wrong with this process in type 2 diabetes, and how drugs used to treat this condition exert their beneficial effects. Dame Fran identified the missing link connecting an increase in blood sugar levels to the secretion of the hormone insulin. She unravelled how genetic mutations in a particular protein cause a rare inherited condition, known as neonatal diabetes, in which patients develop diabetes soon after birth. This has enabled many people with neonatal diabetes to switch to a better form of medication.
Speaking to the Oxford Mail, Dame Fran paid tribute to those she has worked with throughout her career, saying: 'I have always said it is much better to collaborate than to compete and it has been a joy in my life to do that.'
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