Dr Claire Hills

    Reader

    School of Life Sciences
    College of Science

    About Claire Hills

    My main area of research focuses predominantly on diabetic nephropathy, renal disease and gap junction mediated cell-to-cell communication in the diseased kidney. Specifically I am interested in how a loss of cell-to-cell communication may facilitate the progression of renal fibrosis through modulation of the extracellular matrix and disrupted cell-to-cell adhesion.  Other research projects include; understanding the role and regulation of ketamine in renal and bladder fibrosis.

    Career Summary
    1998-2001   BSc Medical Bioscience, University of Kent (1st class)
    2001-2002   Project Scientist, Pfizer Pharmaceuticals, (Kent).
    2002-2006   PhD Molecular Physiology, University of Warwick
    2006-2009   PDRA, Department of Infection, Immunity & Inflammation, University of Leicester.
    2009-2011   Wellcome Trust VIP Research Fellow, School of Life Sciences, University of Warwick
    2011-2013   Research Fellow University of Warwick
    2013-2014   Senior Research Fellow, University of Warwick
    2014- 2016  Senior Research Fellow, University of Lincoln
    2016 -2017  Senior Lecturer, University of Lincoln
    2017-            Reader, University of Lincoln

    RESEARCH PROFILE

    Diabetic Nephropathy:
    In collaboration with Professor Squires we are interested in several aspect of glucose and TGF-beta induced renal damage in diabetes. Almost one third of all patients with diabetes progressively develop diabetic nephropathy (DN) within 10-to-30 years of the onset of disease and DN accounts for almost a quarter of those entering end-stage renal replacement programs in the UK. However, we still lack a basic understanding of this debilitating condition. Current dogma implicates the cytokine transforming growth factor beta (TGF-beta;) as the predominant mediator of tubulointerstitial fibrosis, the common final pathway in DN and end-stage renal disease. Understanding the mechanism by which TGF-beta instigates phenotypic and morphological changes is essential in establishing novel therapeutic strategies for the prevention or arrest of the disease. Our studies aim to elucidate how TGF-beta; disrupts cell-adhesion, cell-cell communication and renal function in DN. The work is funded by Diabetes UK, the EFSD, DRWF, the Physiological Society and the WPH Charitable Trust.

    Urological complications of ketamine abuse:
    In the UK, Ketamine or Special K is fast becoming the “party drug” of choice amongst 16-24 year olds and as its popularity increases we are becoming aware of serious side effects, including renal and ureteral damage. This project investigates how ketamine promotes tissue fibrosis and scarring. Epithelial function depends on complex cell-cell interactions, and our studies examine how ketamine alters the expression and localisation of key adhesion protein ahead of a functional loss in cell-cell coupling and a desolution of connexin-mediated gap-junctions. Loss in cell-cell adhesion represents early pathological changes ahead of overt complications of ketamine abuse e.g. fibrosis and may represent a possible target for future therapeutic intervention. This project is funded by the Rosetree Trust.

    Cyclosproin A in renal fibrosis:
    Cyclosporin A (CsA) is an immunosuppressant drug, which has been used to improve graft survival in renal transplantation through suppression of the immune response. However CsA is marred by acute and chronic nephrotoxicity. Studies have confirmed that exposure of renal tubular cells to CsA evokes key morphological and phenotypic changes characteristic of epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT). This process is associated with the loss in expression of epithelial markers and gain in expression of those more commonly associated with a fibroblast phenotype. Ultimately, as cell undergo EMT they undergo a loss in cell adhesion and detachment from the tubular basement membrane, they subsequently acquire a migratory phenotype migrate into the interstitum where they reside as active myofibroblasts. The transition of cells through EMT in response to high circulating levels of CsA is thought to represent the key underlying pathology behind the development of renal fibrosis in patients having undergone kidney transplantation. Our work on CsA in the proximal tubule aims to address the relationship between CsA and the expression of key candidate proteins in the proximal tubule central to cell-to-cell adhesion and cell matrix interaction. This project is funded by the Petroleum Technology Development Fund.

    For more information, please visit
    https://www.lincoln.ac.uk/home/lifesciences/research/molecularbasisofdisease/diabetesresearch/

    Department Responsibilities

    Joint Programme Lead for the Master in Biosciences (MBio) 4th year programme
    Module Lead on Health and Disease (BMS1071M)
    Module Lead on MBio Research techniques (BIO9018M)

    Subject Specialism

    Diabetes and Endocrinology

    Qualifications

    • PhD Molecular Physiology — Department of Biological Sciences, University of Warwick, 2006
    • BSc (HONS) Biochemistry & Medical Sciences (1st) — Department of Biological Sciences, University of Kent, 2001

    Awards

    • EFSD/Boehringer Ingelheim Research Award — European Foundation for the Study of Diabetes, 2017
    • Physiological Society Award — The Physiological Society, 2016
    • EFSD/Janssen Kidney Award — European Foundation for the Study of Diabetes, 2015
    • Medical and Life Science Research Fund Bursary Award — Medical and Life Science Research Fund, West Midlands, 2013
    • EFSD/Lilly Research Fellowship — European Foundation for the Study of Diabetes, 2011
    • EFSD/Janssen Kidney Award — European Foundation for the Study of Diabetes, 2011
    • Wellcome Trust VIP Fellowship — Kings College London, 2010
    • Nick Hales Young Investigator Award — Diabetes UK, 2010
    • Wellcome Trust VIP Fellowship — University of Warwick, 2010
    • Wellcome Trust VIP Fellowship — University of Warwick, 2009
    • Wellcome Trust VIP Fellowship — University of Leicester, 2009
    • European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD) Travel Award — European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD) Travel Award, 2006

    External Activities and Consultancy

    MEMBERSHIP OF LEARNED SOCIETIES
    Member of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes
    Member of Diabetes UK
    Member of the Physiological Society
    Member of Society for Endocrinology

    RESEARCH RELATED ACTIVITIES
    Abstract reviewer for the British Renal Association.
    Manuscript reviewer for numerous kidney and diabetes journals including Diabetolgia, PLOS, American Journal of Nephrology, Molecular Endocrinology, JASN

    Research Interests

    Research Group Memberships

    Research Projects

    • EFSD/Boehringer Ingelheim Research Programme in Microvascular Complications of Diabetes — The European Foundation for the Study of Diabetes (EFSD) in 2017
    • Diabetes UK grant entitled “Understanding how remodeling of the ECM and altered cell-substrate interactions facilitate progression of tubulointerstitial fibrosis” — Diabetes UK in 2017
    • Diabetes UK Early Career Grant entitled ‘ECM remodelling and connexin mediated cell communication in the diabetic kidney’ — Diabetes UK in 2017
    • Diabetes UK Project Grant entitled “Determination of a role for connexin mediated cell communication in the progression of renal fibrosis in the diabetic kidney” — Diabetes UK in 2017
    • Physiological Society Research Grant entitled   “United we stand, divided we fall: glucose, TGF-beta and connexin mediated cell-communication in the diabetic kidney” — The Physiological Society in 2016
    • Nigerian Petroleum Technology Development Fund grant “Understanding the bioscience of cell-adhesion and membrane dynamics that underpin health” — Nigerian Petroleum Technology Development Fund in 2015
    • European Foundation for the Study of Diabetes (EFSD)/Janssen Kidney award entitled “The role of the extracellular matrix and cell-substrate interactions in human proximal tubule cells ” — The European Foundation for the Study of Diabetes (EFSD) in 2015
    • Diabetes and Research Wellness Foundation (DRWF) grant entitled, “Does reorganisation of the extracellular matrix promote glucose induced fibrosis in diabetic nephropathy” — Diabetes and Research Wellness Foundation (DRWF) in 2015
    • Warwick Private Hospital (WPH) Charitable Trust grant “Does reorganisation of the extracellular matrix promote a loss of phenotypic stability in diabetic nephropathy?” — Warwick Private Hospital Charitable Trust in 2014
    • Rosetree Foundation grant entitled “Special K and urological complications of ketamine abuse”. — Rosetree Trust in 2013
    • Research Development Fund entitled “Cyclosporin A and fibrosis: implications for graft survival” — University of Warwick in 2013
    • Medical and Life Science Research Fund Bursary Award entitled “Does reorganisation of theExtracellular Matrix promote Cyclosporin A-induced renal fibrosis” — Medical and Life Science Research Fund in 2013
    • Diabetes UK Project grant entitled, “AFM single-cell force spectroscopy: determining the functional role of cell-cell adhesion and membrane dynamics in diabetes” — Diabetes UK in 2013
    • Warwick Private Hospital (WPH) Charitable Trust grant entitled, “The importance of cell-to-cell contact in diabetic nephropathy: identifying potential novel targets for therapeutic intervention” — Warwick Private Hospital Charitable Trust in 2012
    • Diabetes UK Project grant entitled, “Effect of TGF-beta on connexin-mediated      signalling”  — Diabetes UK in 2011
    • European Foundation for the Study of Diabetes (EFSD)/Janssen award — European Foundation for the Study of Diabetes in 2011
    • European Foundation for the Study of Diabetes /Lilly Fellowship — European Foundation for the Study of Diabetes in 2011
    • Strategic Research Development Award, entitled, “maintenance of E-cadherin, cell     adhesion and cell coupling in diabetic nephropathy” — University of Warwick in 2010
    • Diabetes and Research Wellness Foundation (DRWF) award entitled, “a role for     C-peptide in alleviating diabetic nephropathy” — Diabetes and Research Wellness Foundation in 2010
    • Wellcome Trust Value in People Fellowship — Wellcome Trust in 2010
    • Wellcome Trust Value in People Fellowship — Wellcome Trust in 2009

    Research in the Lincoln Repository

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