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We apply an integrated approach to human metabolic disease which involves genetic, genomic, cell biology and whole body metabolic studies to understand the pathogenesis of the complications of obesity such as fatty liver disease, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Liver tissue with lipid droplets in four colours
Liver tissue with lipid droplets in four colours.

Scientists, postdoctoral staff and students from a mixture of clinical and non-clinical backgrounds are trained in all key investigation areas. The group has a number of platforms to support its integrated work. These include the 8,000 participant strong and extensively phenotyped and genotyped Oxford Biobank, a dedicated analytical mass spectrometry lab for analysis of metabolic tracers, direct access to the OCDEM clinical research unit and a cell biology lab with unique access to a range of human tissue-specific cell lines. The key areas of investigation are:

  • Fatty liver disease: Our studies are directed toward understanding how perturbations in liver fat metabolism impact on metabolic health and risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. Using a combination of human in vivo, ex vivo and in vitro cellular models, in combination with metabolic tracers (stable-isotopes) the role of phenotype, genotype and nutritional factors on liver fat metabolism are investigated.
  • Human fat distribution: We are working to understand why lower body fat, as opposed to upper body fat accumulation, is protective against type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. We perform functional genetic studies to translate gene variants associated with the fat distribution traits. We perform human in vivo studies to understand the trafficking, storage fat in and between adipose tissues.
  • Wnt signalling in adipose tissue: We use human genetic and physiological approaches, accompanied by functional studies in human fat depot-specific cellular models to better understand the mechanisms whereby Wnt signalling modulates adipose tissue biology and thereby susceptibility to obesity and obesity-associated metabolic diseases.

Immunohistochemistry of adipose tissue in red and greenEmerging areas are:

  • Brown adipose tissue function
  • Ethnicity, fat distribution and its link with global disease burden
  • Metabolic tissue cross-talk
  • Nutrient-specific effects on liver and adipose tissue metabolism

Our team

Selected publications

Related research themes