Professor Dianne Ford
Professor of Molecular Nutrition

  • Email: dianne.ford@ncl.ac.uk
  • Telephone: +44 (0) 191 208 5986
  • Address: Institute for Cell and Molecular Biosciences
    University of Newcastle
    Medical School
    Framlington Place
    Newcastle Upon Tyne
    NE2 4HH

Qualifications

BSc Biochemistry, University of Bristol, 1988

PhD Biochemistry, University of Bristol, 1991
Funded by a Wellcome Prize Studentship

Roles and responsibilities

Director of PhD Studies, Faculty of Medical Sciences
Degree Programme Director, MRes, Faculty of Medical Sciences 

Memberships and appointments

The Physiological Society
The Nutrition Society
The Biochemical Society
The British Society of Cell Biology
Society of Biology (Fellow)
International Society for Zinc Biology (Chair of meetings committee)

Editorial Board, Journal of Trace Elements in Medicine and Biology 

Research Interests

Understanding how diet interacts with cellular and whole organism function at the molecular level underpins nutritional advice aimed to maintain lifelong health.  Our research in molecular nutrition focuses in two areas.  Cellular and systemic zinc homeostasis: Zinc is an essential dietary micronutrient whose fundamental importance in normal cell function is highlighted by the fact that an estimated 10% of all human genes code for proteins that contain zinc.  Our research examines the role and regulation of specific cellular proteins  - primarily zinc transporters  - in delivering zinc to the cell and organism, with the aim to understand how the cell and whole organism maintains zinc homeostasis.  A current focus in this area is to identify and characterise novel mechanisms through which gene expression is regulated by zinc.  A second major theme is to study the role in cellular zinc (and other metal) homeostasis of the COBW family of proteins whose likely involvement in these processes we have recently uncovered.
Epigenetic effects of diet: Epigenetic modifications of the genome are chemical “marks” that are passed on as cells divide and include methylation of the DNA and acetylation and methylation of the histone protein core around which DNA is wound.  We are particularly interested in how epigenetic marking may be a mechanism for recording effects of dietary exposures and how these “records” may than affect health across the whole life course.  Specific areas of current research include examining effects of the sirtuin proteins on DNA methylation, predicated on the observation that these proteins play a key role in increasing lifespan and/or protecting against ageing-related diseases in response to the practice of dietary restriction and based on the notion that DNA methylation patterns change as tissues age.  We are also examining how dietary polyphenols, such as resveratrol and isoflavones, affect DNA methylation and other epigenetic features.
Member of Human Nutrition Research Centre (http://www.ncl.ac.uk/hnrc/) and Epithelial Research Group (http://research.ncl.ac.uk/epithelia/)

Funding

BBSRC, October 2008-September 2011, £437,977, Characterisation of a novel transcriptional mechanism for the regulation of mammalian gene expression by zinc (Principal Investigator: D Ford)
D. Ford. The contribution of genetic factors to inter-individual variability in dietary isoflavone absorption and metabolism. £379,953, BBSRC, July 2007 - June 2010
BBSRC, December 2008-November 2011, £602,142, DNA Methylation, Developmental Programming and Cellular Memory: The Molecular Consequences of Folate Depletion In Utero (Co-investigator: D Ford; Principal Investigator JC Mathers)
D. Ford. The molecular basis of the beneficial effects of calorie restrictiion on ageing: DNA methylation influenced by Sirt1-mediated histone deacetylation. £43,888, EPSRC/BBSRC (SPARC), November 2006 – June 2007
S. Kury, D. Ford et al. Molecular investigation of the pathogenesis of acrodermatitis enteropathica. 160,000 Euros (8,000 Euros to DF). Groupement d’Interet Scientifique, October 2003 – September 2005
B. H. Hirst, D. Ford. Differential regulation of GLYT1 glycine transporter isoforms in the intestine. £238,211, The Wellcome Trust, March 2003 – February 2006
D. Ford, J. C. Mathers. The molecular basis of the differential intestinal and placental response to zinc nutrition. £240,708, BBSRC, December 2002 – November 2005
D. Ford. The role of polymorphic xenobiotic-metabolising enzymes in isoflavone metabolism. £99,000, World Cancer Research Fund, November 2001 – June 2004
D. Ford, J.C. Mathers, F.C. Campbell. The regulation of intestinal zinc transporters. £200,000, BBSRC, April 2000 – March 2003

Projects