In recent years, Endocrinology has extended its portfolio of Experimental Medicine and Pharmacology projects through the strategic recruitment of Professor Leo Dunkel, and Drs Li Chan, Marika Charalambous, Carles Gaston-Massuet and Leo Guasti. One of the new initiatives, led by Professors Dunkel and Tinker, centres on using patient-specific inducible pluripotent stem cells to generate human models of endocrine and cardiovascular disease traits, and thus, of cell systems for carrying out functional analyses and pharmacological testing.
Another initiative, emerging from our successes in understanding the development and maintenance of individual adrenal zones (see panel A, King and Guasti), is focused on developing the conditions for directly re-programming human patient cells into an adrenocortical phenotype. Understanding of adrenal phenotypes is also being pursued through the use of specialised cell and biochemical based assays and the study of unique patient material (Drake, King, Metherell, Storr).
The unique aspects of our pituitary portfolio include the development of murine and fly models of adamantinomatous craniopharyngioma (panel B, Gaston-Massuet) and familial isolated pituitary adenoma (panel C, Korbonits), as well as of in vivo models for probing the regulation of signaling pathways that run amok in hypothalamic-pituitary tumorigenesis and the contribution of imprinting in regulating post-natal organ growth and development (Charalambous) and thus, potentially later-life effects on metabolic health.
Our metabolic studies are also supported by a focus on the contribution of the cellular energy sensor AMP-dependent protein kinase (AMPK) to the regulation of various appetite and metabolic hormones and compounds (Korbonits); the physiological functions of the obesity-associated melanocortin 2 receptor accessory protein 2 (Chan); and the contribution of organelle cell stress (panel D, Chapple) to lipid diseases (Shoulders) and adrenal failure (Metherell, Storr).