I am a senior lecturer in the college of medical and dental sciences at the University of Birmingham, and lead an active research group within the Institute of Cancer and Genomic Sciences that focuses on how our diet influences gastrointestinal health.
I originally graduated with a BSc (Hons) in Biochemistry from the University of Wales in 1992 and then went on to study for a PhD in Biochemistry at the Wellcome Trust Centre at the University of Manchester. I pursued my bio-chemical interests and took up a post-doctoral position with Prof Garrod at the University of Manchester and after this I moved to what was then the Department of Medicine at the University of Birmingham.
Specifically, my research group focusses on how chemical element iron can drive cancer growth and how chemicals found in our everyday foods may suppress might suppress this. Our research suggests that iron can affect our gut health in a number of ways. It can itself be toxic and catalyse the formation of toxic compounds that cause DNA damage; a central event in tumourigenesis. Also, iron can influence the types of bacteria that colonise our gut and it is becoming established that high levels of iron can alter the gut microbiota in a negative fashion. Specifically bacteria which are associated with a healthy gut are diminished in number whilst pathogenic bacteria are more likely to colonise the gut. Thus our current focus is targeted at developing therapies which might be used to suppress these iron mediated effects in the gut and in particularly attempting to create personalise therapies based on the individuals genetic make-up. It is clear from our studies that iron will only contribute to tumourigenesis in a fraction of high risk individuals and similarly therapy will only be useful in those where iron contributes to the disease. Our research thus is truly translational in nature and represents ‘bench to bedside’ research. Thus to achieve our aims we work closely with chemists, biologists, chemical engineers and physicians and all are key to us developing therapies in patients either at high risk of developing cancer or individuals with cancer. Finally not only do I run an active research group, I am also involved in education where I am the current programme director for Biomedical Science and teach aspects to the gut to both biomedical and medical students.
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