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Personal profile

Research interests

As part of the Diabetes Research Group, my research interests are focused on improving our understanding of the disease mechanisms in Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes and on the development of novel therapeutic approaches to improve the quality of life of patients with these conditions. Our Type 1 diabetes research focuses on improving current islet transplant protocols and developing novel sources of insulin-producing cells for cell replacement therapy. Our Type 2 diabetes research focuses on new approaches to working with obese and overweight individuals to help them balance their metabolism and prevent the development of Type 2 diabetes.

The Diabetes Research Group (DRG) made a programme for BBC Inside Out - South East about developing a new treatment for patients with type 1 diabetes involving the transplantation of isolated insulin-producing beta cells. This programme was broadcast on 27 February 2017.

https://cris.brighton.ac.uk/admin/files/6128556/Diabetes_Type_1_Compressed.mov
 

Current Research Projects

  • Islet transplantation therapy in Type 1 Diabetes (as part of the UK Islet Transplant Consortium)
  • Targeting beta cell hypoxia in islet transplantation and pancreatic cancer
  • Biomimetic 3-dimensional culture of insulin-producing cell clusters
  • Combating obesity through improved patient education and tailored exercise programs
  • Use of continuous glucose monitoring system (CGMS) technology in obese, overweight and at- risk individuals to aid in the prevention of type 2 diabetes
  • Understanding non-compliance in young Type 1 Diabetes patients
  • Creation and Validation of Clinically Reflective Human Models of Pancreatic Islets

Scholarly biography

Dr Wendy Macfarlane is a Reader in Molecular Biology and Head of the Diabetes Research Group (DRG) at the University of Brighton. Research in Dr Macfarlane’s laboratory focuses on applying novel 3D microgravity cell culture technologies to the challenge of generating an abundant supply of replacement insulin producing cells for transplantation in Type 1 diabetes. This work is done in collaboration with clinical colleagues both in the UK and internationally. In addition, Dr Macfarlane’s team work closely with local patient groups, healthcare providers and fitness centres, developing new and innovative lifestyle programmes for patients with Type 2 diabetes.

I have nearly 20 years experience in investigating the development, differentiation and function of pancreatic insulin-producing beta cells. My recent research developments include the creation of novel, clinically reflective cell culture models of beta cell growth and differentiation, allowing identification of key genes regulating islet neogenesis, repair and regeneration. My role as scientific advisor to the UK Islet Transplant Consortium allows rapid two-way translation of key findings between clinical and scientific settings. My current work focuses on applying novel 3D microgravity cell culture technologies to the challenge of generating an abundant supply of replacement insulin producing cells for transplantation in Type 1 diabetes. This work is done in collaboration with clinical colleagues both in the UK and internationally. In addition, I am privileged to work closely with local patient groups, healthcare providers and fitness centres, developing new and innovative lifestyle programmes for patients with Type 2 diabetes.

Approach to teaching

I have been working with patients with diabetes, researching diabetes and teaching diabetes for nearly 20 years now. Imagine what it feels like to be told that you have Type 1 diabetes, a diagnosis that currently means that you will need insulin injections every day for the rest of your life. If that seems scary, now imagine that it is not you, but your 4 -year-old daughter that has just been diagnosed and you are going to be responsible for her daily insulin injections and for managing her disease. Being diagnosed with a chronic disease, or having a child diagnosed with a chronic disease, can be incredibly challenging. I teach the science behind the new therapies, the state-of-the-art approaches being developed and utilised in our laboratories and clinics and the lifestyle techniques that can improve our patients lives. But I also want all our students to understand that every patient is different and unique and some struggle with their disease. Understanding our patients’ (and their parents) journey lies at the heart of all of my teaching.

Supervisory Interests

The Diabetes Research Group (DRG) work directly with patients with Type 1, Type 2 and Gestational Diabetes, utilising state of the art technologies to provide novel and more effective therapeutic interventions.

PhD Students at University of Brighton

Victoria Ordor      

Continuous Glucose Monitoring Systems (CGMS) as a motivational tool in young obese individuals. PhD sponsored by the Niger Delta Development Commission.

Elaine Sharp

Investigating the role of psychological time perspective in adherence to self-care in young adults with type 1 diabetes mellitus (T1D)

Madeline Honey             

The effect of anti-psychotic drugs on long-term beta-cell survival and pancreatic function.

Alice Hagan       

Elucidation of the Mechanism of Action of Locally-delivered Novel Chemotherapeutic Agent Combinations from Drug-eluting Embolisation Systems. PhD sponsored by an 1851 Royal Commission Fellowship in collaboration with BTG.

Dr Nouf Alhasawi   

Protection of islet cells for transplantation therapy in type 1 diabetes. PhD awarded 2016

Dr Ben McCutcheon

Mining bugs for drugs: Discovery and characterization of novel bioactive compounds from the human gut microbiome. PhD awarded 2016.

Dr Sandeep Kumar

Expression, subcellular localisation and regulation of programmed cell death gene 4 (PDCD4) in human pancreatic cells in response to hypoxia. PhD awarded 2015.

Dr Jonathan Nzakizwanayo

Investigation of host-microbe interactions in the probiotics. PhD Awarded 2014.

Education/Academic qualification

PhD

Award Date: 3 Jul 1995

External positions

Athena SWAN Lead

2013 → …

Fitness Instructor, Virgin Active Falmer

2011 → …

Health and Fitness Coach, AFLG Obesity Support Team, Redhill, Surrey.

2011 → …

Scientific Advisory Board, UK Islet Transplant Consortium

2008 → …

STEM Ambassador

2008 → …

Diabetes UK (panel member, abstract reviewer, grant reviewer)

2002 → …

Keywords

  • R Medicine (General)
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Exercise
  • Blood glucose
  • pancreatic cancer

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