My interest is in the kidneys: how they control blood pressure and what happens when things go wrong. The kidneys are responsible for ensuring that we excrete water, salt and other waste products in the urine. Normally they are very good at balancing our daily intake of water and nutrients in food against losses in the urine. However when this goes wrong an individual may develop high blood pressure (hypertension) which can lead to heart disease and may ultimately be fatal. Other diseases, such as diabetes, can damage the kidneys and impair their ability to function normally, making the situation worse. Research in my laboratory focuses on two areas of kidney function:
(i) The role played a hormone called urotensin II in kidney disease arising from high blood pressure and diabetes. By understanding how and why urotensin II affects kidney function in disease, we are developing ways to prevent damage to the kidneys.
(ii) Growth and function of an unborn baby’s kidneys can be altered permanently, leading to high blood pressure in later life, if the mother has a poor diet or is stressed during her pregnancy. Our work aims to understand how this process can be prevented or reversed.
Nick Ashton is a Senior Lecturer in Physiology in the Division of Cardiovascular Sciences of the Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health and is also affiliated with the Cardiovascular, Metabolic and Nutritional Sciences research domain.
Nick obtained his first degree in Zoology from the University of Sheffield (1983) before joining Prof Richard Balment’s group at Manchester for his PhD in renal physiology (1987). His initial postdoctoral training saw a change of direction to study the exocrine pancreas with Prof Roger Green (Manchester) and Prof Barry Argent (Newcastle). However, he returned to the kidney, which has remained his primary interest, with a postdoctoral position in 1991 at the Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada.
Upon returning to the UK in 1993, Nick took up a lectureship in Physiology at the University of Sunderland where he established an independent laboratory studying the developmental origins of cardio-renal disease. In 1998 he returned to Manchester to take up a lectureship in Physiology and to renew collaborations with the renown Manchester Renal Group.
Nick has published over 50 peer reviewed papers in the area of renal physiology and hypertension. His work has been funded by the British Heart Foundation, the Wellcome Trust and BBSRC. He has successfully supervised 11 PhD students and currently has 3 PhD students in the lab. Nick is currently an Academic Editor for PLOS ONE and has served on the Editorial Boards of the Journal of Hypertension and the Journal of Developmental Origins of Health and Disease. He is a member of the external referee panel for Kidney Research UK.