Associate Professor of Physiology Samira Lakhal-Littleton has chosen by The Physiological Society to deliver the Bayliss-Starling Prize Lecture at their upcoming meeting in July 2021. Prof Lakhal-Littleton, who is also a BHF Basic Science Research Fellow, leads a research group here in DPAG focusing on iron homeostasis.
Prof Lakhal-Littleton will talk about her lab's work over the past five years, which has produced a new paradigm in our understanding of iron control in systems physiology. This work has shifted our understanding of iron disorders from the simplistic view of “too much” or “too little” iron to that of sophisticated systems-level iron control.
On receipt of the Prize Lecture, Prof Lakhal-Littleton said: "The significance of this award for me is that it represents an acknowledgement of the importance of the emerging field of research that my lab’s work has created. A few years ago, the idea of system-level iron control was unheard of, and little consideration was given to how tissues regulated their iron levels and how that regulation affected their physiology. Indeed, the consensus was that iron levels in tissues were simply a function of iron availability in the blood. We now recognise that some cells including cardiovascular cells are not passive bystanders when it comes to iron control. They utilise cell-autonomous regulated iron export to fine-tune the size of the intracellular iron pool. The size of the intracellular iron pool requires tight control, to ensure there is sufficient iron for important metabolic and signalling processes, but that the levels remain below those at which reactive oxygen species (which are damaging to cells) are generated. Indeed, we found that disruption of the mechanisms of system-level iron control (even when keeping iron levels in the blood normal), resulted in profound impairment of physiological function of the affected tissue."
"The next step is to understand how disruption of system-level iron control contributes to the pathophysiology of established disease. Our discoveries have important implications for our understanding of the pathophysiology of iron disorders and how they might be treated, shifting the focus way from the blood to the tissues that are affected, e.g focusing on cardiac iron levels in the context of heart failure."
"I hope that this prize lecture will help me raise the profile of our work even further, so that we can engage in the shaping of how iron disorders are treated by providing the mechanistic understanding to underpin treatment."
The Bayliss-Starling Prize Lecture was established in 1960 as a joint memorial to Bayliss and Starling. It is now annually awarded to early career as well as established physiologists in alternate years. Adding to its prestige is an opportunity to be published in The Journal of Physiology, subject to the agreement of the Editorial Board.
More information about the Lecture can be found on The Physiological Society website.
Major recent insights from the Lakhal-Littleton Group can be found in the DPAG news pages, including "Assumptions on fetal iron development during pregnancy challenged" and "Critical link revealed between iron deficiency and a serious cardiovascular condition".