Research group leader
Postgraduate research supervisor
BSc (Hons) Applied Biochemistry Brunel University 1981
PhD in Autoimmune Disease Studies University of Newcastle 1987
Certificate in Teaching and Learning in Higher Education 1994
British Society for Immunology
International Association for Dental Research
Association for Basic Science Teachers in Dentistry
I am interested in the immunopathogenesis of human periodontitis and characterisation of molecular biomarkers for periodontal disease management.
Cells found in the periodontium e.g. myeloid immune cells, fibroblasts and keratinocytes act as sentinel cells to initiate immune responses to microbial pathogens in chronic inflammatory disorders such as periodontitis. Thus, cytokines secreted by these cells have a critical role in regulating innate and adaptive immune responses in the periodontium and an inappropriate cytokine response leads to destructive inflammation mediated by the action of host enzymes such as matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs). Furthermore, cross-susceptibility between periodontitis and systemic disease is explained at least in part by dysregulation of cytokine networks in common conditions such as obesity and type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM).
The elucidation of cytokine-mediated immune responses to periodontal pathogens is therefore central to our understanding of the cellular events which lead to compromised periodontal health in a wide-range of patient groups, not just those with primary oral disease. This knowledge will enhance patient management through characterisation of rational biomarkers which may identify susceptible patients and predict the clinical course of the disease and the response to treatment. Biomarkers might be soluble mediators in oral fluids such as saliva or may be genetic variants associated with particular disease phenotypes.
My research takes place at the laboratory–clinical interface as part of the Translational Oral Biosciences group of the Centre for Oral Health Research (COHR) and the Institute of Cellular Medicine (ICM).
Leptin is a peptide hormone secreted by adipocytes (adipokine) which serves to regulate metabolism and appetite but also has an immunoregulatory function in a wide range of tissues. We hypothesise that leptin may have a synergistic effect with cytokines in signalling immune competent cells in the periodontium and that this pathway may contribute to shared susceptibility between periodontitis and conditions of hyperleptinemia (such as obesity and T2DM). We have investigated this by examining the leptin-induced signalling pathways and molecular responses in myeloid immune cells such as monocytes. It is intriguing that stromal cells such as fibroblasts are considered to be pro-active in defining tissue specific immune responses and disease pathogenesis, so a particular focus of our current research are the pathways and responses of gingival fibroblasts triggered by leptin synergising with pro-inflammatory cytokines such as IL-1.
The functional research of periodontal immune responses in vitro informs our translational research into biomarkers of periodontal disease. With the support of our industrial partners, we have conducted a number of longitudinal studies assessing the efficacy of cytokines, adipokines (such as leptin) and other inflammatory mediators in biological fluids as biomarkers. In a project funded by the EPSRC and the Technology Strategy Board we are working with 2 local biotechnology companies (OJbio and ORLA Protein Technologies) to develop novel approaches to periodontal disease monitoring. In this project we are developing and characterising a point-of-care analytical device based on proprietary nanoscale-biological technology which will give real-time information relating to disease activity which will inform patient management.
We are also building on our previous work on genetic association of cytokine gene polymorphism with periodontitis to investigate the interaction of environmental factors (e.g. smoking) with single nucleotide polymorphisms and cytokine profiles in periodontitis patients. We hope to develop a holistic framework based on genetic, immunological and clinical data which accurately defines periodontitis phenotype, disease progression and treatment response.
Fellow of the Faculty of Medical Sciences Graduate School
Current students: 2 PhD; 3 Masters
EPSRC/Technology Strategy Board
The Nuffield Foundation
The Oral and Dental Research Trust
Newcastle University Hospitals Special Trustees
Northern Regional Health Authority
Philips Oral Healthcare
BSc undergraduate project supervisor
MRes an MSc Project supervisor
MClinDent Project supervisor