Metabolism & Endocrinology
Understanding the role of hormones and energy production
Metabolism and endocrinology underlie every aspect of our lives, from the functioning of a single cell through to our ability to run a marathon. Therefore it is not surprising that defects in endocrine or metabolic function underlie so many common human diseases, including cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and neurodegenerative disorders.
Our department has a long and distinguished history of metabolic and endocrine research. This includes the pioneering studies of Haldane and Douglas into human respiration and metabolism. It also includes the work of Geoffrey Harris, who showed that the anterior pituitary is regulated by factors secreted from hypothalamic neurons, and who many consider to be the “founding father” of neuroendocrinology. More recently, basic science from our department has helped to change therapy for patients with neonatal diabetes and to improve the performance of endurance athletes. Today, our studies remain directed at understanding basic physiological mechanisms, how these are impaired in disease, with the ultimate goal of creating new therapeutic approaches to disease.
Metabolic research is of profound importance to society. The current twin pandemics of obesity and type-2 diabetes are obvious examples of where there is both a major public health concern and a huge economic cost. DPAG groups are investigating the genetic causes of obesity, the regulation of pancreatic hormone secretion, and how cardiac metabolism is impaired in type-2 diabetes. We also study metabolic changes in cancer, an almost defining feature of this disease, along with cellular mechanisms involved in amino acid uptake, metabolism and cell growth.
Mammals need a continuous supply of oxygen to survive because it forms the terminal electron acceptor for aerobic energy production. Our department has a major research effort to understand both oxygen sensing and respiratory control. Importantly, we are beginning to understand just how important oxygen sensing and signaling pathways are for shaping both human form and function. Mitochondria are the subcellular structures associated with aerobic metabolism, and our department has a strong research profile directed at understanding mitochondrial function within their cellular environment.
Within our metabolic and endocrine research we employ a wide variety of techniques, ranging from the highly molecular through to physiological studies in human volunteers. Overall, the Department provides a vibrant, comprehensive and exciting place to conduct research within this theme.