Centre for Endocrinology
A unique feature of endocrinology research at the William Harvey Research Institute is our focus on life-course consequences of endocrine and metabolic diseases from conception to old-age and their biological bases.
Clinical and research collaboration between paediatric and adult endocrinologists is delivering ground-breaking discoveries and an international patient referral base, providing access to unique patients and families. Our Discovery Science and Experimental Medicine successes include achieving major advances in understanding the nature and causes of Familial Pituitary Adenoma and identifying six novel genes causing Familial Glucocorticoid Deficiency, thereby providing new insights into the cellular processes regulating steroidogenesis. Adrenal and pituitary development, mitochondrial and stem cell physiology and intracellular trafficking are complementary ongoing research interests at Endocrinology, as is the study of novel genes underlying the timing of puberty, the risk of dyslipidemia and rare bone diseases.
The translational aspects of our work are both inspired and supported by our clinical and basic research collaboration, which continues to serve us well in attracting high-quality clinical and non-clinical PhD students and more senior investigators to this truly international centre of excellence.
Key research areas
- Endocrine tumours
Lead researchers: Korbonits, Chapple, Drake, Brown, Gaston-Massuet, Gevers, Guasti
- Genetics and pathophysiology of adrenal insufficiency
Lead researchers: Metherell, King, Guasti, Chan, Prasad
- Development of hypothalamus and pituitary and disease
Lead researchers: Dunkel, Gaston-Massuet, Gevers, Korbonits, King, Guasti, Chan
- Puberty and growth disorders
Lead researchers: Dunkel, Storr, Gaston-Massuet, Gevers, Metherell, Howard
- Immuno-metabolic traits of hyperlipidemia and obesity
Lead researchers: Chan, Shoulders
- Cellular Stress and Signalling
Lead researchers: Chapple, McCormick, Korbonits, Shoulders, Chan
- Stratified medicine, clinical trials and stem cell therapies
Lead researchers: Brown, Dunkel, Korbonits, Metherell, Guasti, Storr, Chan
- Clinical Trials and Outcomes
- Websites for Referring Patients with Rare Endocrine Disorders for Genetic Diagnoses & Helpful Patient Information
- REF Impact Statements and Gene Panels
- Pioneering Research and Treatments in Paediatric and Adult Endocrinology
- Informed and influenced Guidelines for Management of Endocrine and Cardiovascular Patients
- Award-winning MSc in Clinical Endocrinology and Diabetes
- Editorial Boards and Recent Journal Covers
- Significant MRC, Wellcome Trust, BHF, BTLC, European Union Horizon 2020 program, Children with Cancer UK, NIHR, BBSRC, Ataxia of Charlevoix-Saguenay Foundation, IPSEN, Prince Songkla University, Diabetes UK, Rosetrees Trust, IFCAH, UK Clinical Research Network, as well as funds from Sandoz and Pfzier underpin our clinical and research programmes.
- Enviable track-record of securing funding for clinical training and clinical scientist fellowships from MRC and Wellcome Trust, as well as the Bart’s and London Charity
- MSc Endocrinology and Diabetes
Our partnership with Clinical Endocrinology at Barts Health NHS Trust at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital enables detailed studies of pathogenesis and therapeutic options for rare and common endocrine and metabolic diseases.
- Demonstration of how BRAF and, more generally MAPK signalling, contribute to pituitary development, a key advance stemming from genetic studies showing that mutations activating MAPK pathway components cause congenital hypopituitarism. (Dr Carles Gaston-Massuet, Nat Comm, 2021).
- Discovery of co-driver pathogenic somatic mutations in aldosterone-producing adenomas of women presenting with hypertension in the first trimester of pregnancy, the period of peak human Chorionic Gonadotropin (Professors Morris Brown & Helen Storr, Nat Gen, in press 2021).
- Discovery of a novel genetic cause of delayed puberty in boys increases our understanding of the processes regulating the timely migration of neurons from the vomeronasal organ in the nose to the hypothalamus during embryonic life. (Professor Leo Dunkel and Dr Sasha Howard, JCI Insight, 2020).
- Discovery that the neurohormone dopamine signals through a specific receptor-combination(s) in early-stage Huntington’s disease, identifying a novel therapeutic target (Dr P McCormick, eLife 2020).
- Demonstrated that metformin reduces the adverse metabolic side-effects of glucocorticoids, which could potentially benefit as many as 3% of the adult UK population (Professor Márta Korbonits, Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology 2020). https://www.thelancet.com/journals/landia/article/PIIS2213-8587(20)30021-8/fulltext. This paper was accompanied by an Editorial entitled Metformin: the white knight fighting corticosteroid side-effects. https://www.thelancet.com/journals/landia/article/PIIS2213-8587(20)30040-1/fulltext
- Proof-of-principle that pro-active, clinical surveillance of asymptomatic people with AIP mutations, the most common cause of genetically-determined acromegaly and gigantism, has real clinical benefit: earlier intervention, reducing disease severity and complications. (Professor Márta Korbonits, JCEM 2020).
- Recognition that one of the most common mouse sub-strain used in the research community has a mutation causing dilated cardiomyopathy. (Professor Louise Metherell, Life Sci Alliance, 2020).
- Discovery that contrary to expectations that the pseudokinase Tribbles 1 in arterial macrophages promotes uptake of atherogenic lipoproteins and that silencing this protein in this cell-type could be therapeutically targeted to reduce atherosclerosis (Professor Carol Shoulders, Sci Adv, 2019).
- Reader’s choice award 2019 for the most significant contribution to the field in 2018. Demonstration that recombinant human insulin growth factor improves height outcomes in children with short stature due a homozygous intronic pseudoexon growth hormone receptor mutation. (Professor Helen Storr, Eur J Endocrin, 2018).
- Key mechanistic discoveries (i) the aryl hydrocarbon receptor interacting protein (AIP) contributes to adaptive immune responses via regulation of AKT signalling; and ii) expression of AIP in diffuse large B cell lymphomas correlates with disease severity and pathobiology via regulation of de-ubiquitinases. (Professor Márta Korbonits in collaboration with Dr Oliver Haworth, Cell Reports 2019).
- Development of novel method for making steroidogenic cells from fibroblasts, blood- and urine-derived cells that could enable the study of adrenal disease in a personalized manner. Translation potential: opens up venues for developing precision therapies for adrenal insufficiency (Dr Leo Guasti, Cell Reports 2018).
- Development of a conceptual model for studying feedback loops regulating the architecture of dermis, and thus of skin, the largest endocrine organ of the body. (Dr Emanuel Rognoni, Molecular Systems Biology 2018).
- Discovery MRAP2 in the hypothalamic paraventricular nucleus that regulates food intake and energy expenditure (Dr Li Chan, Molecular Metabolism 2018).
- Identification of a heterozygous germline mutation in a β-cell–enriched transcription factor in a series of families that causes diabetes in some family members and insulinomatosis in others, with a strong gender specificity. The effect of the mutation on protein stability helps explain the gender-specific dichotomous phenotype (Professor Márta Korbonits, PNAS 2018).
- Discovery that pseudohypoxia associated with genetic causes of pheochromocytoma and paragangliomas (tumours of the adrenal gland & autonomic nervous system) disrupts primary cilia-mediated signalling pathways associated with tumorigenesis and cancer. (Professor Paul Chapple, Endocr Relat Cancer 2018).
- Discovery of key molecular mechanism underlying the neurodegenerative disease ARSACS caused by loss of Sacsin: this large protein regulates intermediate filament cytoskeleton assembly and dynamics (Professor Paul Chapple, Hum Mol Gen 2017). https://academic.oup.com/hmg/article/26/16/3130/3848995
- Discovery that the hypothalamic-derived hormone kisspeptin binds to specific receptors in the fetal adrenal gland, thereby regulating fetal adrenal steroidogenesis, and the integrity of the fetoplacental unit, particularly in the second trimester of pregnancy. (Professor Helen Storr, JCEM 2017).
- First description of a novel syndrome of adrenal insufficiency and steroid-resistant nephrotic syndrome and discovery of the genetic cause of this multi-organ disorder: impaired sphingolipid catabolism due to loss-of-function SGPL1 mutations (Dr Rathi Prasad, Professor Louise Metherell, JCI 2017).
- Identification of a genetic cause of delayed puberty highlights the contribution of a previously uncharacterised protein (IGSF10) in steering migration of gonadotropin-releasing hormone neurons during embryonic development (Dr Sasha Howard, Professor Leo Dunkel, EMBO Mol Med 2016).
- Established that the repressor functions of Transcription factor 7-like 1 are required for the development of the hypothalmus-pituary axis and, that loss of this repression causes a rare form of congenital hypopituitarism (Dr Carles Gaston-Massuet, PNAS, 2016). https://www.pnas.org/content/113/5/E548.long.
- Discovered novel role for a collagen XVIII isoform in adipose tissue accrual and metabolism. (Professor Carol Shoulders, PNAS, 2014). https://www.pnas.org/content/111/30/E3043.long