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University of Manchester
Areas of Interest:
obesity, high-fat diet, neuroinflammation in AD
Biography & Research:
Catherine obtained a BSc honours degree in Pharmacology (1992) and her PhD (1996) from the University of Manchester. During her PhD, which was under the supervision of Professor Nancy Rothwell, she was interested in how pro-inflammatory cytokines affect neuronal injury. However, after completing her PhD she then gained over two years experience in the commercial sector working as a Clinical Research Associate in the pharmaceutical industry. In 1998 she returned to academic research and obtained a post-doctoral position (funded by AstraZenca) working with Dr Simon Luckman in the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Manchester. Her interest at this time was the involvement of novel neuropeptides in energy homeostasis. In 2004 she left the University of Manchester to secure a position as a Senior Research Scientist at AstraZeneca, but then returned to the Faculty of Life Sciences in 2005 when she was awarded an RCUK fellowship and in 2010 she became a lecturer and senior lecturer in 2015. How do extreme changes in body weight affect the brain? Disorders of energy balance (e.g. obesity, cachexia, anorexia) involve a complex interaction of genetics, diet, activity and metabolism. However, changes in inflammatory state are now known to be present during situations of altered energy homeostasis. For example, obesity has been proposed to be an ‘inflammatory disease’, as low-grade inflammation is detected in obese subjects, measured by increases in inflammatory markers. These inflammatory changes are now thought to contribute to some of the diseases linked with obesity. We are interested in understanding how these inflammatory processes affect the central nervous system (CNS). Obesity is associated with an increased risk of several diseases, such as diabetes and some cardiovascular conditions. Recent data also suggest that obesity constitutes a risk factor for damage to the CNS, although the mechanism involved in these actions is unknown. Inflammation plays a major role in several disorders that affect the CNS, such as the neuronal injury observed during cerebral ischaemia (stroke) and Alzheimer’s disease. Thus, the overall aim of our work is to understand if changes in inflammation observed during situations of altered energy balance (e.g. positive energy balance in obesity) lead to altered CNS responses to injury, by using appropriate experimental in vivo models combined with in vitro approaches. This work will have relevance to acute forms of neuronal injury, such as stroke, but also to neuronal damage in chronic forms of neurodegeneration (e.g. Alzheimer’s disease).