University of Dundee

Seven-figure boost for Dundee research

24 Sep 2018

University of Dundee scientists have been awarded Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) grants totalling more than £1 million to fund their research into cancer and diabetes.

Professor Anton Gartner has received £750,000 of funding while Professor Hari Hundal was also awarded more than £630,000 for a joint project with Robert Gordon University. Of this, £411,233 will be used to fund the Dundee component of the research. Three Postdoctoral positions will be created at Dundee’s School of Life Sciences as a result of both awards.

Professor Gartner’s lab recently discovered a new mechanism used by cells to protect chromosome integrity. This pathway allows cells to resolve DNA linkages between separating chromosomes just before cells divide. Failure in these mechanisms result in pathologies linked to cancer development and the team now want to understand this process in greater detail. The funded project is supported by Professors David Lilley and John Rouse.

Professor Gartner said, “This is a generous award which will allow us to work out a ‘last chance saloon’ mechanism that allows cells to fix DNA linkages between separating chromosomes just before cells divide. Support for two postdoctoral positions will allow us to work out the details of this mechanism.

“While we normally work on a tiny nematode worm called C. elegans, which serves as an experimental model organism, we will now also tackle the same process in human cells. This is important as the key gene involved in the last chance mechanism we study is implicated in breast and ovarian cancer, but it is not known how it works. This is exactly what we want to find out.”

Professor Hundal’s research focusses on cell signalling in relation to diabetes and obesity. The over-arching aim of the BBSRC-funded project is to explore links between a lipid-sensing protein, called GPR55, which is present on the blood-facing membranes of fat, liver and muscle, and processes influencing adiposity (fatness), inflammation and responsiveness to insulin within these tissues.

“BBSRC funding is highly competitive and sought after,” said Professor Hundal. “Consequently, I am delighted to have been awarded this grant, which represents the third successive tranche of support that my group has received from the research council in recent years.

“We are hopeful that the findings that emerge from this work will establish GPR55 as a novel therapeutic target in the future treatment of metabolic disorders linked to the growing prevalence of obesity and diabetes in our society.”      

The BBSRC is part of UK Research and Innovation, the body set up to work in partnership with universities, research organisations, businesses, charities, and government to create the best possible environment for research and innovation to flourish. The organisation invested £498 million in world-class bioscience in 2017-18 and supports around 1600 scientists and 2000 research students in universities and institutes across the UK.

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