The University of Edinburgh Endocrinology Unit is embedded in the Centre for Cardiovascular Science at the Queen’s Medical Research Institute and comprises ~70 full-time research staff and students. The laboratories provide excellent facilities for the full range of molecular biology, tissue culture, and biochemical techniques. An animal unit and Clinical Research Facility are both on the same campus for physiological studies. Our research is supported by external grant funding of ~£2M per annum including current Programme Grants from Wellcome Trust and British Heart Foundation.
Senior staff include Prof Jonathan R Seckl (Moncrieff-Arnott Professor of Molecular Medicine); Prof Brian R Walker (Professor of Endocrinology); Professor Karen E Chapman (Professor of Molecular Endocrinology); Professor Megan C Holmes (Professor of Molecular Neuroendocrinology); Dr Ruth Andrew (Reader); Dr Rebecca M Reynolds (Clinical Reader); Dr Roger W Brown (Clinical Senior Lecturer); Dr Amanda J Drake (MRC Clinican Scientist); Dr Shareen Forbes (Clinical Senior Lecturer); Dr Chris J Kenyon (Hon Senior Lecturer); Dr Kerry McInnes (DUK RD Lawrence Fellow); Dr Patrick W F Hadoke (Senior Research Fellow); Dr Pauline M Jamieson (Lecturer); Dr Roland H Stimson (Clin Lecturer); Dr Scott P Webster (Drug Discovery Manager); Dr Joyce L Yau (RCUK Fellow). In addition, there are several principal investigators with independent intermediate and career development fellowships. We have approximately equal numbers of postdoctoral assistants, PhD students, and technical staff, several clinical research fellows from a variety of clinical disciplines, and a number of short-term undergraduate and postgraduate students. The administrative requirements of our Unit are supported by a proficient admin/secretarial team.
We have close links with the National Health Service clinical Diabetes & Endocrinology services at both the Western General Hospital and Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, which are run as a single administrative entity, the Edinburgh Centre for Endocrinology. These operate from recently opened buildings and provide a high quality service in all aspects of Diabetes & Endocrinology. At the Royal Infirmary, Reproductive Endocrinology is particularly strong, while the Western General is the site for the region’s pituitary surgery. A summary article describing the Endocrinology 'scene' in Edinburgh is available to download from the left of this page.
Current Research in Progress:
Research in the Endocrinology Unit largely concerns the tissue responses to glucocorticoid hormones. As is evident in the myriad manifestations of elevated circulating glucocorticoids (Cushing’s syndrome), these steroids have diverse actions, so that the applications of our research include effects in the brain (cognitive dysfunction and depression), cardiovascular system (peripheral vascular structure and function and renal sodium retention), metabolism (carbohydrate and lipid metabolism), and immune system. Our research in the last 20 years has made key contributions to understanding that tissue responses to glucocorticoids are modulated by intracellular interconversion of active and inactive glucocorticoids by the 11beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase (11HSD) enzymes. We are also investigating other determinants of corticosteroid signalling including control of glucocorticoid receptor function, pathways for mineralocorticoid hormone action and other enzymes determining steroid access to receptors. Our research ranges from 'cloning to clinic'. For example, in relation to 11HSD1: we are investigating the promoter regulation of 11HSD1 expression; in collaboration with the Molecular Physiology group we have generated unique transgenic models of 11HSD1 manipulations; in animal models of disease we have documented changes in 11HSD1 expression and activity; in detailed clinical physiological studies we have shown the impact of manipulating 11HSD1 in vivo; and in epidemiology-based studies we have explored the impact of 11HSD1 in human disease.
A further major interest is in the early life origins of disease. Epidemiological studies in several human populations have linked low birth weight with a substantially increased risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and depressive illnesses in adult life. The potential mechanisms have been unclear, but ‘fetal programming’ of tissue responses has been inferred. We suggested early glucocorticoid (GC) exposure as a good candidate mechanism, since glucocorticoids reduce birth weight in many mammalian species and affect the trajectory of organ maturation, hence their clinical use in obstetrics to accelerate lung development in threatened preterm labour. We have demonstrated the relevance of GCs as mediators and targets of programming in extensive animal studies and in parallel investigation in humans.
If you would like to know more about our research, please consult our most recently published review articles. Alternatively, you can listen to Brian Walker's overview of our work cortisol and cadiovascular disease as delivered in April 2007 as a plenary lecture to the European Society of Endocrinology at http://www.endo-lectures.org/index.php?menu=view&id=3