Prof David Thornton BSc, PhD

Professor of Biochemistry

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Research in my laboratory is focused on understanding how the sticky, gel-like substance mucus protects the body. Research is focused on two major topics; • How does mucus protect our lungs? • How does mucus protect against gut-living parasitic worms? In the lungs, mucus is essential in keeping the airways free from obstruction. Mucus traps inhaled bugs and particles and then hair-like cells (cilia) move the mucus out of the lungs. In diseases like asthma, cystic fibrosis and chronic bronchitis too much mucus, which is stickier than normal, is produced and it is not efficiently removed from the lungs. This results in airflow obstruction, infection, damage to lung tissue and problems with breathing. We are trying to understand how mucins, the molecules that give mucus its gel-like appearance, contribute to the abnormal properties of mucus in disease. Infections by gut-living whipworms are a major public health problem, mainly in the developing world. For these studies we are using a mouse model of human whipworm infection. We discovered that the mucus barrier and its mucin components are an essential part of a well-coordinated response to protect against of gut-living worms. We are actively investigating the details of this important protective function.


Dave is a Professor within the Wellcome Centre for Cell Matrix Reserch in the Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health. His undergraduate and postgraduate degrees, both in Biochemistry, were from the University of Lancaster. Since moving to Manchester in 1987, Dave has had a number of positions; first as a research associate (CF Trust and Wellcome Trust funded), then as a Senior Experimental Officer within the Wellcome Trust Centre for Cell Matrix Research before finally joining the academic staff in 2003. Within the former Faculty of Life Sciences Dave has been the deputy director of the Wellcome Trust 4 year PhD programme, the head of postgraduate research progression, the deputy associate dean for postgraduate research (recruitment), and most recently he was Tissue Systems Section Head.


Biology, Medicine and Health (BMH) Domains


  • Barrier tissues, Infection, Inflammation, Extracellular Matrix, mucosal immunology, Cystic Fibrosis

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