Membrane transport in cartilage and cancer cells
Robert Wilkins' research examines how altered membrane transport activity is associated with cellular dysfunction and disease. His research addresses two problems:
(i) the influence of physical and chemical factors on cartilage ion homeostasis
The intracellular composition or cartilage cells (chondrocytes), in particular intracellular pH, has profound effects on the synthesis of cartilage matrix and the enzymes that degrade it. Work characterises how physical and chemical variables that change during joint loading or are disturbed in degenerative cartilage conditions alter the expression and activity of chondrocyte membrane transport pathways, thereby changing intracellular composition and cartilage turnover.
(ii) the role of cell volume regulation in epithelial cancer progression
There is an association between the expression of a variety of membrane transporters that regulate cell volume and the progression of cancer in epithelial tissues such as the cervix and breast. In collaboration with colleagues in Taiwan, a cellular model of human cervical cancer has been established that is been used to investigate how enhanced activity and expression of one volume regulator, KCC, leads to enhanced cell proliferative and invasive capacity.