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A new interdisciplinary Oxford research programme will explore the relationship between metabolism and inflammation in metabolic diseases.

New approach for type 2 diabetes research
Our group will bring expertise in molecular controls of immune cell function. We will use the state-of-the-art genomic technologies to examine the macrophage-neutrophil cross-talk in obesity and the role of the IRF5 pathway by analysing various adipose tissue depots. - Professor Irina Udalova

Led by Professor Robin Choudhury, of the Radcliffe Department of Medicine, the project goes from big data analysis to find a causal relationship between inflammatory factors and the development of type 2 diabetes and related disorders, to analysis of molecular and cellular mechanisms, to intervention studies.

Professor Irina Udalova, from the Kennedy Institute and a research partner on the project says: "Our group will bring expertise in molecular controls of immune cell function. We have recently demonstrated that modulation of a transcription factor IRF5 impacts on the relative mass of different adipose tissue depots and thus insulin sensitivity in obesity. We will use the state-of-the-art genomic technologies to examine the macrophage-neutrophil cross-talk in obesity and the role of the IRF5 pathway by analysing various adipose tissue depots."

This is one of two projects funded by Novo Nordisk Foundation, which combine the fields of immunology and metabolic research and bring together investigators from Oxford, the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, and the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden.

Obesity, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes (T2D) and associated cardiovascular disease (CVD) - all metabolic diseases - are an epidemic global health problem. Almost 400 million people worldwide have type 2 diabetes, and total deaths from the condition are anticipated to rise by more than 50% in the next 10 years. Therefore, research that addresses the causes and complications of these diseases and delivers effective treatment for them is of paramount importance.

Professor Choudhury says: "The goal of the programme is to revise the way we regard diabetes spectrum diseases by learning more about the role of inflammation in the pathogenesis of the disease and, in particular, the vascular complications. If successful we may open up new therapeutic possibilities that go beyond merely treating blood sugar and instead target biologically relevant pathways and processes."