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Diabetes, Metabolism & Inflammation (DMI) Research Group

The Diabetes, Metabolism and Inflammation (DMI) Group has recently been established in the School of Life Sciences and is housed within the Joseph Banks Laboratories at the University of Lincoln.  Formation of the DMI Group reflects the strategic recruitment of a number of established research-intensive academics with complementary research interests in the areas outlined above, with all members of the Group being recruited to the University within the last 3 years.  The Group’s vision is to create a strong, dynamic and engaged research culture to carry out research that has the potential for real world impact at a local, national and international level.  As the Group evolves and progresses it will look to increase its research through increasing national and international collaborative networks.

Members of the Group have established track records in the area of diabetes, both type 1 (Christie, Simmons, Hills & Squires) and type 2 diabetes (Whitehead, Squires & Hills), as well as diabetes complications (Hills & Squires) and metabolism and cardiovascular disease (Whitehead, Squires) and inflammation (Holden) as briefly outlined below.

Type 1 Diabetes

Simmons - Investigating genetic predictors of long-term pancreas transplant function in pancreas transplant donor and recipients with the goal of (i) improving methods of donor organ selection, (ii) identifying those at risk of graft loss (with the aim of using therapeutic intervention to prevent graft loss), and (iii) discovering potential therapeutic pathways to extend pancreas transplant function.

Christie - Identifying and characterizing pancreatic β-cell targets of the autoimmune response in Type 1 diabetes, with the view of developing novel strategies to identify individuals at risk for disease, and to apply antigen specific immune intervention to prevent disease progression in high-risk subjects.

Type 1/2 Diabetes & Complications

Squires & Hills - are investigating the role of altered cell-cell communication in diabetic nephropathy, the leading cause of end-stage renal disease (ESRD) in patients with diabetes.  The ultimate aim is to identify potential therapeutic targets for the treatment and prevention of ESRD.  This work is being expanded to other areas with similar pathophysiology (fibrosis and inflammation), namely islet/pancreatic β-cell biology as well as diabetic retinopathy.

Type 2 Diabetes & Other Obesity Related Diseases

Whitehead - Characterising molecular pathways that (i) underpin healthy adipose tissue (fat) expansion and function to identify novel therapeutic strategies to facilitate the generation of “fit fat”, and thereby reduce obesity-associated cardio metabolic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease, and (ii) develop new strategies to improve cardio metabolic function via enhancing the adiponectin axis, a key anti-inflammatory axis.

Airway Inflammatory Disease (Asthma and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD))

Holden – Improving treatment of asthma and COPD (both increased in obesity - a recognised state of low grade, chronic inflammation) by defining the molecular mechanisms that promote resolution of inflammation, bronchoconstriction and airway remodeling.

The DMI Group enjoys strong links with the Lincoln Institute for Health (LIH), which provides additional opportunities to develop collaborative clinical and community based research, outreach and engagement.

Funding applications from members of the DMI Group typically address the following priorities of key funding organisations including:

  • RCUK: Sustainable health and wellbeing
  • BBSRC: Healthy ageing across the life course
  • MRC: Population and Systems medicine & molecular and cellular medicine & vaccines
  • EPSRC: Healthcare Technologies and Engineering
  • InnovateUK: Health and life sciences – Precision medicine & advanced therapies
  • Diabetes UK: Prevent all forms of diabetes
  • Juvenile Diabetes Research Fund (JDRF): Cure type 1 diabetes
  • British Heart Foundation: Improve prevention & treatment of heart & circulatory diseases
  • Diabetes Research & Wellness Foundation (DRWF) -  Staying well until a cure is found

Facilities:

The building features cutting-edge research and teaching facilities across four storeys, covering 6,000 square metres. It includes a specialist category 2 microbiology containment facility equipped with safety cabinets, fermentation rigs and high speed centrifuges, two imaging suites containing a range of instruments (X-ray diffractometers, NMR spectrometer, Raman spectrometer, mass spectrometer, scanning electron microscope and light, fluorescence and atomic force microscopes) for studying molecular and cellular structures, four self-contained tissue culture laboratories, a molecular biology laboratory with dedicated spaces or rooms for PCR, gel electrophoresis, gel imaging gene cloning, microbiology, a flow cytometry laboratory and specialist rooms containing centrifuges and freezers.  There is a controlled access suite for the extraction and processing of samples with low levels of nucleic acids that minimizes contamination.  The building also houses seminar and tutorial rooms, as well as open plan social spaces to promote interactions between research groups in the facility.

Projects:

Current funding:

  • Determining a role for connexin mediated cell communication in the progression of renal fibrosis in the diabetic kidney - Diabetes UK (16/0005427) Squires & Hills(2017-2020).
  • Understanding how remodeling of the ECM and altered cell-substrate interactions facilitate progression of tubulointerstitial fibrosis - Diabetes UK(16/0005544) Squires & Hills (2017-2020).
  • ECM remodeling and connexin mediated cell communication in the diabetic kidney - Diabetes UK, Hills(2017-2018).
  • Connexin-43; a therapeutic target for inhibition of the inflammasome in diabetic nephropathyEuropean Foundation for the Study of Diabetes (EFSD)/Boehringer Award, Hills & Squires(2017-2019)
    • United we stand, divided we fall: glucose, TGF-beta and connexin mediated cell-communication in the diabetic kidney - The Physiological Society, Hills (2016-2018).
    • Preclinical testing of IA-2-IgG Fc chimeric proteins for antigen-specific B-cell depletion therapy of Type 1 diabetes.  Diabetes UK, Christie(2015-17).

 

Completed grants secured at Lincoln

  • Understanding the bioscience of cell-adhesion and membrane dynamics that underpin health - Nigerian Petroleum Technology Development Fund, Squires & Hills(2015-2016).
  • Developing the Lincolnshire joint research agenda for chronic health conditions - Research Investment Fund, Bridle, Squires, Sirwardena, Curtis, Jones, Sriraman, Young (2015).
  • The role of the extracellular matrix and cell-substrate interactions in human proximal tubule cells European Foundation for the Study of Diabetes (EFSD)/Janssen Kidney Award, Hills & Squires(2015-16).
  • Does re-organization of the Extracellular Matrix promote glucose-induced fibrosis in Diabetic Nephropathy? - Diabetes Research & Wellness Foundation (DRWF), Hills & Squires(2015).

 

Completed Grants secured elsewhere:

  • The effect of TGFβ on connexin-mediated signalling: a role in diabetic nephropathy. Diabetes UK (11/0004215) - Squires & Hills (2011-15).
  • AFM single-cell force spectroscopy: determining the functional role of cell-cell adhesion and membrane dynamics in diabetes. Diabetes UK (12/0004546) – Squires, Hills, Liu & Jones(2012-15).
  • Special K and urological complications of ketamine abuse. The Rosetree Foundation Squires & Hills (2013-16).
  • Role of type 1 diabetes (T1D) susceptibility genes in predicting long term pancreas transplant function in T1D patients: pilot study.  Novo Nordisk UK Research Foundation, Simmonds (2014).
  • Identifying genetic predictors of graft function to enable pancreas transplantation to become a lifelong cure for type 1 diabetes.  DRWF, non-clinical fellowship - Simmonds (2012).
  • Extending whole pancreas transplant function in type 1 diabetics.  DRWF, Simmonds (2012).
  • Identification of a novel neuroendocrine autoantigen in type 1 diabetes. Society for Endocrinology, Christie (2013).
  • Identification of diabetes-associated epitopes by NMR. Diabetes UK, Christie (2013). Roles of HLA and B-cells in the regulation of pro- and anti-inflammatory T-cell responses to the IA-2 autoantigen in Type 1 diabetes. Diabetes UK, Christie (2012).
  • Antigen-specific B-cells as targets of immune intervention therapy for Type 1 diabetes. King’s College London Graduate School, Christie (2012-13).
  • Characterisation of novel hormone receptors.  Australian National Health & Medical Research Council (NHMRC), Whitehead (2014-16).
  • Defining a new adipogenic pathway.  NHMRC, Whitehead, Prins (2013-15).
  • Characterisation of Metabolism in Pre-Clinical Models of Cardiometabolic Disease and CancerIan Potter Foundation, Whitehead (2015).
  • Characterisation of the adiponectin receptors, AdipoR1 and AdipoR2: Identifying strategies to enhance adiponectin and insulin sensitivity and reduce type 2 diabetes.  Diabetes Australia, O’Neill, Whitehead (2014).
  • The Queensland-Pfizer Program for Diabetes and Cardiovascular Drug Discovery.  Smart State Co-Investment Fund, Fairlie, Craik, Whitehead, Prins (2012-14).
  • Characterising a novel adipogenic pathway.  Australian National Heart Foundation (NHF), Whitehead (2012-13).
  • IL-22 as a Suppressor of Pancreatic β-Cell Stress and a Treatment for Diabetes. NHMRC, McGuckin, Prins, Forbes, Whitehead, Coombs (2015-18) - withdrew due to relocation.

Group Members:

  • Prof. Paul E. Squires (Co-Lead)
  • Prof. Jon Whitehead (Co-Lead)
  • Dr. Michael Christie (Reader)
  • Dr. Claire E. Hills (Reader)
  • Dr. Matthew Simmonds (Senior Lecturer)
  • Dr. Neil Holden (Senior Lecturer)
  • Dr. Katrina Firth (PDRA, Back-to-Science)
  • Dr. Angeles Mondragon-Jaramillo (PDRA, Diabetes UK)
  • Dr. Eleftherios Siamantouras (PDRA, EFSD/Boehringer)
  • Dr. Gareth W. Price (PDRA, Diabetes UK)
  • Ms Choa Ping Ng (RA, University of Lincoln)
  • Mr. Joe Potter (PhD, Diabetes UK)
  • Ms. Melissa Tombs (PhD, University of Lincoln)
  • Ms Rachael Simpson (PhD, University of Lincoln)
  • Ms Kristian Boasman (PhD, University of Lincoln)
  • Mr Alex Jenkins (PhD, British Lung Foundation/Asthma UK)

 

Associate Members

  • Prof. Andrew Hunter (DVC)
  • Prof. Terrence Herbert (School of Pharmacy)
  • Prof. Graham Law (School of Health & Social Science)
School of Life Sciences, University of Lincoln, Brayford Pool, Lincoln. LN6 7TS 

email: enquiries@lincoln.ac.uk
tel: + 44 (0)1522 886654