Project Descriptions

LaNts and Laminin interactions

The LaNts (laminin N-terminus) proteins are a recently identified family of proteins that have been implicated in regulating wound repair potentially via interaction with laminins.

Watch the video above for a very short introduction to laminins and LaNts.

LaNt and LM332 staining in human corneal epithelial cells

The BBSRC and Institute of Ageing and chronic disease funded research in our lab is investigating this interplay between laminins and the LaNt proteins and the implications this has for cell behaviour.

Research from our lab has demonstrated that epithelial cells require the "goldilocks" level of one member of the LaNt family, LaNt a31, for normal cell migration behaviour. Specifically, we have shown that too little LaNt in skin cells severely restricts their ability to close wounds whereas, more recently, we have discovered that too much LaNt has a similar effect.

SpFollowing on from these findings we are working now to identify the mechanism. Our data show that when cells express too much LaNt they deposit their laminin in tight clusters rather than a more diffuse rose-like pattern. Also, the cell to laminin adhevise devices (focal adhesions and hemisdesmosomes) display differences compared with control cells.

Laminins, focal contacts and hemidesmosomes are all critical for tissue integrity, development, repair and remodelling therefore understanding the roles of the relatively unstudied LaNt proteins on these well established entities will help our deeper understanding of these critical cellular processes

Fibronectin (yellow) and integrin beta 4 staining in a cell overexpressing LaNt a31

More details (and videos) coming soon...

LaNts and signalling in Wound Healing and Squamous Cell Carcinoma

In addition to their laminin interaction roles, the LaNts structural features resemble those of the netrin family of proteins. Netrins are important signalling proteins with roles in guiding axons and in regulating angiogenesis.

3D skin equivalents stained for LaNt (middle) and LM332 (right)

Thanks to funding from the British Skin Foundation, we are investigating the similarity between LaNts and netrins and looking into LaNts based signalling in skin wounds and squamous cell carcinoma.

Skin wound tissue equivalent models

More details coming soon...

Developing molecular therapies for glaucoma

Glaucoma occurs as a result of blockage to the drainage system between the front and back of the eye. Usually this blockage occurs due to excessive matrix production. The NC3R studentship led by Prof Colin WIlloughby is developing a new in vitro model in which new molecular therapies can be tested.

More details coming soon...

Investigation into the role of the extracellular microenvironment in the development of limbal stem cell failure in aniridia

This is a new PhD project supported by Fight For Sight and supervised by Drs Hamill and Ahmad, and Prof Colin Willoughby.

The main aim of this project is to determine the role of the extracellular environment in causing painful blindness in Aniridia by affecting the stem cells on the surface of the eye.

More details coming soon...

Keratoconus and Corneal Ultrastructure

Keratoconus (cone shaped cornea) is a thinning disorder of the central cornea that causes visual distortion. Current treatments involve UV induced chemical crosslinking to stabilize the cornea. However, the molecular and structural effects of these treatments are poorly understood.

A PhD studentship supervised by collaboration of Prof Ahmed Elsheikh, Prof Colin Willoughby and Dr Hamill is trying to better characterise the biomechanical, ultrastructural and functional implications of corneal cross linking.

More details coming soon....


Created with images by TobiasD - "eye human face"

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