The Biosciences Research Group is made up of over 25 principal investigators conducting cutting-edge research that contributes to two of the College of Health and Life Sciences’ four key multidisciplinary themes; cellular and molecular biomedicine, and health and disease across the lifespan.
We use a wide range of model systems and analytical tools to obtain new understanding of the cellular and physiological processes fundamental to life, including immune function, wound healing and ageing. Consequently, many of our researchers are part of the Aston Research Centre for Healthy Ageing (ARCHA) Centre of Excellence. A strong research focus is on pathological mechanisms of inflammatory diseases, including diabetes, Parkinson’s Disease, Alzheimer’s Disease, cystic fibrosis, and atherosclerosis.
Research within the group on cell membrane structure and function is closely aligned with the Aston Centre for Membrane Protein and Lipid Research (AMPL) Centre of Excellence. This work also has wide translational applications in biopharma, clinical science and biotechnology; we have well-established research in industrial biotechnology for the production of proteins, biofuels and biochemical feedstocks.
We also have a long-standing interest in antimicrobial agents and drug discovery, and have expanding research strength in regenerative medicine.
Our researchers collaborate with scientists in universities across the globe including the Universities of Birmingham, Edinburgh, Barcelona, Zurich, Queensland, and Harvard Medical School. They also work closely with a variety of industries from biotechnology and manufacturing, to food and private or charity-funded research laboratories.
Many of our projects include collaboration with the healthcare sector and national NHS trusts.
Our major funders include UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), Medical Research Council (MRC), National Centre for the Replacement Refinement & Reduction of Animals in Research (NC3Rs), Innovate UK, and the European Commission (Horizon 2020).
Additional funding has come from UK charities such as Alzheimer’s Research UK, The Wellcome Trust, The Humane Research Trust, and Give a Child Health.
People and publications
Our researchers are internationally recognised in their fields, with roles as journal editors, chairs of funding panels, commercial consultancy, and membership of national and international advisory panels.
Director of Research: Professor Corinne Spickett
Corinne is a Professor of Biosciences within the School of Biosciences, a member of the Aston Centre for Membrane Protein and Lipid Research, and a Co-investigator on the international collaborative projects MemBrane and MemTrain. She is recognised internationally as a researcher in the field of redox biology and oxidative stress.
Researchers in the Biosciences research group are supported by and make use of the following facilities, which are also open to external collaboration.
- Mass Spectrometry and Lipidomics Laboratory
Home to three mass spectrometers, all of which can be interfaced to both analytical and nanoflow liquid chromatography systems, this laboratory is open to collaborators and trained research users.
- ARCHA Advanced Imaging Facility
Microscopy is a fundamental technique for cell-based investigations as it allows detailed sample visualisation. The ARCHA Advanced Imaging Facility currently provides a large number of research groups, including the Biosciences Research Group with access to state-of-the-art microscopy equipment.
- Biochemistry and molecular biology
We study the mechanisms of life at a sub-cellular level. Our work uncovers new insights into the structure and function of cellular components, and how they can be harnessed for industrial applications, as well as understanding the basis of disease.
Our research uses a variety of cell types and macromolecules to study fundamental biochemical processes using advanced analytical methods. It has wide translational potential to biotechnology, biomedical science and diagnostics. The current areas of interest are:
- Membrane protein structure and function.
- Protein engineering.
- G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) signalling.
- Biochemical effects of oxidative stress.
- Development of proteomic and lipidomic methods.
- Improving industrial processes for production of proteins, biofuels and biochemical feedstocks.
We are also closely aligned with the Aston Centre for Membrane Protein and Lipid Research (AMPL).
- Cell biology and physiology
We use diverse approaches including cell biology, model organism research, and human cohort studies to gain new insights into the roles of specific proteins, cells and physiological pathways in health and disease.
The research in this topic is interdisciplinary and examines proteins, enzymes, metabolism, extracellular vesicles and signalling pathways at a molecular, cellular and organismal level. This in turn allows us to decipher how their roles and properties can be modulated in physiological and pathophysiological states, including those involved in obesity, diabetes, cancer, fibrosis, and brain conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease. We use a variety of techniques and models:
- Cell biology techniques include protein expression, microscopy and specialised assays linked to specific cell functions, such as cell migration and cell interactions.
- Use of different organisms such as cultured cells, tissue and multicellular model systems (C. elegans and D. melanogaster).
- Human cohort studies to investigate frailty and metabolism in ageing, including the links between body composition and successful ageing, and Type 2 diabetes.
We are also closely aligned with the Aston Research Centre for Healthy Ageing (ARCHA).
- Infection, immunity and inflammation
We study the role of inflammation on the immune system in health and disease, as well as the beneficial and adverse effects arising from the interaction between microorganisms and the body, to help us develop therapies for hard-to-treat illnesses.
The research in this topic comprises two overlapping areas. Microbiology research is focused on understanding microbes and their contribution to health and disease. We are exploring new ways to treat infectious diseases, reducing the transmission of infections, understanding the microbiome of specific host environments and the technological applications of microbiology to specific industries.
We work alongside industry and healthcare providers with a focus on the practical applications of our research and its impact to local, regional, national and international communities.
Immunity and inflammation are studied by a collaborative, multi-disciplinary team investigating how our immune system responds to the multiple challenges it faces whilst protecting us from pathogens and maintaining health. Our common research goal lies in achieving a better understanding of chronic inflammation, particularly in immune-driven diseases such as asthma, arthritis and cancer. We also seek to harness our model systems to promote rapid development of vaccine delivery systems through reducing the reliance on animal testing.
- Regenerative and medical cell technologies
We undertake multi-disciplinary, translational research to accelerate the development of new cell-based medicines. We focus on strategies to enable the production and characterisation of human cells and their products for medicines development. Our work embraces two broad areas of interest:
- Development of processes and analytics to support the manufacturing of therapeutics directly from human cells (i.e. advanced therapy medicinal products [ATMPs], regenerative medicine, cell and gene therapies).
- Application of human cells to create disease models in a dish for subsequent drug discovery.
To achieve this, we bring together fundamental human cell biology and chemical engineering. We use process engineering for cell and gene therapy manufacturing, as well as developing miniaturised, perfused cell culture technologies to support specialised cell functions for therapeutic applications. We also research novel biomaterials and their applications in biomedicine. Engaging widely with industry and clinicians, we work to support them in creating new approaches to the development and testing of new cell-based medicine.