Recent Research Areas

Overview

  • Approximately more than 420 million adults(20-79 years) are living with diabetes; by 2045 this number will rise to 629 million
  • The proportion of people with type 2 diabetes is increasing in most countries, and 360 million people are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes
  • 79% of adults with diabetes were living in low- and middle-income countries
  • The greatest number of people with diabetes were between 40 and 59 years of age
  • 1 in 2 (212 million) people with diabetes were undiagnosed
  • Diabetes caused 4 million deaths
  • Diabetes caused at least USD 727 billion dollars in health expenditure in 2017 – 12% of total spending on adults

Recent research on diabetesRecent research on diabetes

Diabetes increases the risk of death from cardiovascular disease such as stroke, coronary heart disease and atherosclerosis. Diabetes is also the leading cause of adult-onset blindness, kidney failure, non-traumatic limb loss, and loss of neurosensory function.

Obesity is one of the fastest growing epidemics in the world, affecting both developed and developing countries. The costs of obesity represent approximately 6-8% of the direct healthcare budgets of developed countries. Both obesity and type 2 diabetes are linked to many other diseases, particularly cardiovascular disease and neuro-degenerative diseases.

The BITM, University of Buckingham, has developed a sufficient critical mass of researchers able to study type 2 diabetes and obesity from the gene through to whole-body physiology.  They are internationally recognised experts in molecular genetics, biochemistry, pharmacology, nutrition and the physiology of metabolic diseases, particularly diabetes and obesity and neurodegenerative diseases.

Our goal is to define new molecular targets that could be sites for novel pharmacology and to examine a potential therapeutic agents acting from the cell to the whole body.

Recent Research Areas

Our recent research areas include:

Adipose tissue expansion-induced inflammation

  • White adipose tissue a major endocrine and secretory organ
  • Large adipocytes become hypoxic in obesity, leading to changes in adipokine production, glucose utilisation – and tissue dysfunction
  • Adipocytes secrete multiple adipokines involved in cross-talk with other cells and tissues
  • Inflammation-related adipokines are implicated in the development of the pathologies associated with obesity
  • In BITM, researches are performed to identify the specific role of the various adipokines, both in normal adipose physiology and in tissue dysfunction in obesity

An image showing the effects obesity has on the body

Plant treatments for metabolic syndrome, obesity and diabetes

In the recent decades, there has been renewed interest in traditional and alternative medicine and thousands of potential medicinal plants have been screened to identify bioactive lead components. More than half of the diabetics in the world are treated by plant-based therapies. Studies are undertaken to examine the mechanism of action of several medicinal plants to evaluate their therapeutic potential compared with synthetic drugs.

Transcriptional factors associated with insulin sensitivity and lipid metabolism 

New agents to improve insulin sensitivity are being developed by pharmaceutical companies. These agents affect the transcription of insulin-responsive genes through activation of nuclear hormone receptors. Proof of principle studies are being conducted on pioneer therapeutics together with more fundamental studies to identify the mechanism of action of these pioneer compounds.

Links between metabolic diseases and neurodegenerative diseases

Obese individuals are prone to a chronic low-grade inflammation. Circulating cytokines can act on the brain to induce local inflammation and production of cytokines which can contribute to cognitive decline and dementia. Compared to normal weight individuals. The relative risk of the development of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease in midlife was 2.04 for obese individuals (BMI ≥ 30 kg/m2) and 1.64 for overweight people (BMI = 25–29.9 kg/m2).

In collaboration with our academic and industrial partners, studies are performed to investigate the links and the cross talk between adipose tissue and the brain, also to understand the links between fat mass expansion and oxidative stress and inflammation in nerve cells, as well investigating the potential preventive and protective effects of plant-based medicines.

Both obesity and type 2 diabetes increase systemic inflammation and oxidative stress. The production of pro-inflammatory cytokines and reactive oxygen species (ROS) can act on the brain to induce local inflammation, which can contribute to cognitive deficits.

Links between obesity type 2 diabetes and skin physiology

The majority of obese or diabetic individuals will experience skin complications during the natural history of their disease, ranging from relatively benign skin manifestations, through to potentially catastrophic delays in wound healing and epider`mal integrity. The accumulation of sub-dermal adipose tissue and, consequently, increased pro-inflammatory cytokine release could affect the dermal fibroblast physiology.

Angiogenesis

Obesity is associated with adipose and vascular remodelling, an inadequate blood supply leading to hypoxia and systemic inflammation. Adipose tissue is a highly vascularized organ, and consequently, the expansion of adipose tissue that occurs during the development of obesity is dependent on angiogenesis.