Faculty of Medical Sciences

Staff Profile

Professor Barry Hirst

Professor of Cellular Physiology


Roles and Responsibilities

Lead for Estates and Spaces in Faculty of Medical Sciences. Chair of Faculty of Medical Sciences Health & Safety Committee.  Chair of University Learning & Teaching Spaces Refurbishment Steering Group. Convenor of Academic Appeals Panel


Dean of Postgraduate Studies, Faculty of Medical Sciences (2004-2014) 


Academy of Healthcare Sciences, Education, Training & Professional Standards Committee chair.

Health Research Authority, Research Ethics Committee member


BSc Physiology, Newcastle upon Tyne
PhD Newcastle upon Tyne


Physiological Society; British Society of Gastroenterology; Biochemical Society

Google Scholar web link:



Research Interests

Epithelia form a barrier between the external world and the body. Epithelial barrier functions minimise access of toxic agents and pathogens, while providing for selective uptake of nutrients. Three inter-related areas, intestinal nutrient transport, intestinal drug transport and epithelial-bacterial pathogen interactions are the focus of research.

Intestinal nutrient transporters allow not only for nutrient supply from the diet to the body, but also fulfil specialist needs in maintaining enterocyte homeostasis. One example is the supply of glycine by the high-affinity glycine-specific GLYT1 transporter (SLC6A9 gene). GLYT1 demonstrates both apical and basal localisation, with at least five different transcripts identified, from the use of two promoters and with several differential splicing events. The laboratory investigated the role of these different transcripts of the GLYT1 in maintaining glycine supply to enterocytes during the fasting-fed cycle. This is coupled to studies of the role of glycine in maintaining enterocyte health in the face of oxidative and other challenges. The role of GLYT1 in maintaining cancer cell proliferation is a related area.

Oral drug bioavailability is a balance between passive and active absorptive mechanisms and the ability of the intestinal epithelium and hepatocytes to actively secrete drug molecules through a variety of ABC-transporters. Research focused on the role of these transporters and their potential for interaction with drug metabolism systems, thus enabling predictive in vitro methods for assessing oral bioavailability.

Many pathogenic bacteria have evolved to interact specifically with epithelial tissues, enabling them to gain access to the host. Research on human tonsils, in collaboration with Judith Hall and Janet Wilson (ENT Surgery), focused on the determinants for interaction of Streptococci with human tonsils, the expression and regulation of antimicrobial peptides in the tonsil and the influence of antimicrobial peptides on Streptococci-tonsil interactions.

Google Scholar web link:



BSc Physiological Sciences Stage 3 

PSC3011 Physiology of Gastrointestinal Tract (Cell Biology of Parietal Cells; Antigen Sampling M Cells)