To increase their chances of survival, living things must be able to sense changes in their environment, and respond appropriately. Similarly, for the human body to remain healthy, the cells within it must detect and respond to various external changes. The systems in living cells that link such changes with responses are known as signalling pathways. My laboratory studies the function of a family of molecules called phosphoinositides (PIs) in signalling pathways.
Seven different PIs have been found in the human body, and they all carry out different jobs. My research focuses on the function of PIs in responses to the hormone insulin. In healthy people, insulin causes muscle and fat to absorb glucose. At least four different PIs are involved in this response, but we are still trying to understand exactly how. Also, in people with type 2 diabetes, glucose absorption in response to insulin is impaired. This is known as insulin resistance, and it has been linked to altered levels of certain PIs. By investigating the function of PIs in healthy and insulin-resistant cells we hope to learn more about the causes of type 2 diabetes, which currently affects over 2 million people in the UK alone.