Professor Heather Wilson

Professor Heather Wilson
BSc (Biochemistry) PhD

Chair in Immunology

Overview
Professor Heather Wilson
Professor Heather Wilson

Contact Details

Telephone
work +44 (0)1224 437350
Email
Address
The University of Aberdeen Immunity and Infection Programme Lead
University of Aberdeen, School of Medicine, Medical Sciences and Nutrition
Institute of Medical Sciences (IMS), Office 3.24, Lab 4.49/4.51/1.16
College of Life Sciences and Medicine
Foresterhill Health Campus
Aberdeen
AB25 2ZD

Biography

 

I graduated with a first class honours degree in Biochemistry  and was awarded a Carnegie prize scholarship to fund my PhD investigating lipid mediators driving coronary heart disease (awarded 1990). My early postdoctoral years focussed on factors mediating the pathophysiology of atherosclerosis and progression of glomerulonephritis to end stage renal disease. I was awarded MRC, Kidney Research UK and British Heart Foundation funding to continue my postdoctoral studies at Aberdeen University on the effects of macrophage inflammatory mediators on controlling glomerular extracellular matrix turnover and how increased deposition and/or decreased protease degradation resulted in renal scarring. A further MRC funded project focussed my research interests to the earlier inflammatory stage of nephritis and the cellular and molecular mechanisms controlling glomerular inflammation, focussing on the role of macrophages in experimental models. I was appointed to Lecturer at University of Aberdeen in 2008, promoted to Senior Lecturer in 2013 then awarded a personal chair in 2019. My current research is primarily directed towards understanding the signalling pathways that control macrophage activation and function, especially in inflammmatory diseases including nephritis, atherosclerosis and wound healing. I also have interests in macrophage signalling pathways relating to infection control focussing on Candida albicans

I teach on and coordinate BSc, MSc and MBChB courses with a primary focus on inflammation and human disease. I am Chair of Foresterhill Biological Safety Committee and programme Co-lead for the Immunity and Infection research programme. I am a reviewer for NHS Grampian Biorepositiry tissue bank and was lead for the NVision early career researchers programme within the Instutute of Medical Science.

I am an active member of the Renal Association, British Society of Immunology and Biochemical Society. I have external examining roles at University of Bristol and have also examined many MSc and PhD thesis externally. I am a mentor for the Carnegie Trust Future Leaders programme and an ambassador for promoting career development of early career researchers.

 

Research

Research Interests

 

My research interests are directed towards a better understanding of the role of macrophages and other immune cells in controlling the pathogenesis of inflammatory and immune-mediated diseases. I have focussed primarily on the factors that polarise macrophage functions to pro- or anti-inflammatory subsets and the ways in which differentially activated macrophage subsets regulate tissue injury or tissue repair, especially in rodent models of nephritis and human atherosclerosis, wound healing and cancer. The aim is to be able to control immune and inflammatory mediated diseases by manipulating macrophage function. For this I am dissecting the role of the intracellular signalling pathways that direct macrophage activation, and how these pathways can be switched to exploit macrophage reparative attributes and restore regulation to the inflammatory response. I have developed a multitude of techniques to efficiently isolate tissue infiltrating macrophages and analyse their intracellular signalling pathways and using these have, for example, demonstrated that inhibiting the SOCS3 and PTP1B induces macrophages to become profoundly anti-inflammatory when exposed an inflamed environment.  I also have projects studing how  changing macrophage function in infection e.g. by clinical drugs can alter the outcome and the implications of this.

 

Current Research

 

My research is currently focussed on manipulating macrophage function using  physiological inhibitors. I am also exploring potential biomarkers of macrophage activity in macrophage mediated diseases (glomerulonephritis, atherosclerosis, wound healing and cancer) to establish the phenotype, function and balance of macrophage functional subsets throughout the pathogenesis of these diseases to provide pointers as to the most effective therapeutic strategies to manipulate macrophage activity and restore tissue homeostasis.

When tissues are wounded, direct current extracellular electric fields are established. Moreover synthetically applied electric fields can speed up healing and reduce inflammation in chronic wounds. The group is also determining how small electric fields, influence the polarisation and antibacterial/wound reparative properties of macrophages and activation and proliferation of T cell subsets. Another physical stimulus we are showing to influence macrophage function is shockwave therapy that can alter the functions of macrophages to accelerate the healing properties in chronic wounds.

A third area of research is determining how manipulating immune cell function, for example using clinical drugs, can change the susceptibility to infection and the pathways essential for this. For example, we are currently researching and have shown that inhibition of PTP1B is important in regulating infection susceptibility to Candida albicans.

Research Grants

 

Vickers M, Wilson HM, Campbell J. Reprogramming the innate immune system to treat malignancy: targeting ovarian cancer. Medical Research Scotland 2020-2024.

 

McEwan IJ, Wilson HM, Dundas S. Impact of the immune landscape on androgen ablation therapy and progression to therapy-resistant disease. Eastbio studentship 2020-2024.

 

Vickers M, Wilson HM Vickers M, Wilson HM. High mannose exposure on blood cells and development of new therapeutic modalities for sickle cell disease and cancer. (Clinical Fellowship for Dr Charlotte Robertson). Friends of Anchor. 2020-2022.  £160,811

 

Thompson D, Delibegovic M, Wilson HM. The FPR2 ligand W-peptide: A new therapeutic approach to treat atherosclerosis. British Heart Foundation 2020-2023 £252,229 PG/19/30/34327

 

Galley HM, Wilson HM.  Interactions between melatonin and endogenous opioid peptide release from macrophages. British Journal of Anaesthesia/Royal College of anaesthesia.2019-2022 £89,426

 

Delibegovic M, Wilson HM, Baker D. Potential new strategies for the treatment of kidney disease due to diabetes. Medical Research Scotland, 2019-2023 £115133

Gibson I, Wilson HM Can regenerative medicine scaffolds efficiently modulate the immune response to improve the outcome of bone tissue repair? Eastbio studentship 2019-2023

 

Mclean M, Wilson HM. Interleukin-27 as a new therapy for acute severe inflammatory bowel disease. Cunningham Trust 2019-2022, £85429

 

Wilson HM, Vickers M. Cao, H. Development of potential new diagnostics and therapies for sickle cell anaemia. Friends of Anchor 2018-2020, £15000

 

Wilson HM, Forrester JV, Kuffova L. Using potential antigen-specific regulatory T cells as a novel therapeutic strategy to ameliorate autoimmune uveitis. Fight for Sight 2018-2020 £199508

 

Wilson HM Camera upgrade for the UltraVIEW Spinning Disk confocal live cell microscope. Friends of Anchor.  £20,410

 

Wilson HM, Cooper B Clinical benefits and mechanism of action of shock wave therapy for healing chronic venous ulcers. NHS Grampian Endowment Funds. £11,302

 

Murray F, Dawson D & Wilson HM Stress-induced heart disease G17.10 Tenovus 2017-2018 £11,750

 

Delibegovic M, Wilson HM, Rajnicek A Inhibition of macrophage protein tyrosine phosphatase 1B (PTP1B) as a novel therapy for improved wound healing in diabetes. Diabetes UK 2017-2019 £ 165735

 

Mclean M, Wilson HM & Murray G. The role of HMBG1 in the pathogenesis of colorectal cancer. Friends of Anchor. 2017-2018 £9757

 

Wilson HM, Delibegovic M, Brown GD, Arthur S. The role of innate cell PTP1B in susceptibility to infection. EastBio DTP studentship. 2017-2021

 

Nixon G, Wilson HM. Inhibiting angiogenesis in human aortic valves: a new therapeutic target. British Heart Foundation studentship 2017-2020. £107465

 

Wilson HM, Delibegovic M, Brown GD. Unravelling the role of innate cell PTP1B in controlling susceptibility to fungal infection.  Wellcome Trust Institutional Strategic Support Fund Seedcorn Award. £18,184

 

Nixon G, Wilson HM. Inhibiting angiogenesis in human aortic valves: a new therapeutic target. British Heart Foundation studentship 2017-2020. £107465

 

Mclean M, Wilson HM, Murray G. Interleukin 27 (IL-27) as a new therapy for inflammatory bowel disease-defining IL-27 evoked responses in the gastrointestinal epithelial barrier. NHS Grampian Endowment Funds. 2017-2018, £11850

 

Wilson HM, Delibegovic. New treatments for diabetic nephropathy. NHS Grampian Endowment Funds. 2017-2018, £11911

 

Hislop J, Wilson HM, Thompson D. Formyl Peptide Receptors:  A potential target in the design of anti-inflammatory therapeutics for the treatment of Sepsis. NHS Grampian Endowment Funds. 2017-2018, £9139

 

McLean M & Wilson HM Interleukin-27 responses in inflammatory bowel disease - a potential new therapeutic? CIRCA PhD studentship; 2016-2020; £116,786

 

Dawson D, Wilson HM, Newby D, Ahearn T, Dweck M, Semple S, Kerr K, Brown PAJ “A study into the inflammatory mechanisms and protracted recovery of tako-tsubo cardiomyopathy” BHF Project Grant; 2016-2019; £348,855

 

Delibegovic M, Wilson HM, Mody N, Dawson D, Whitfield P, Brown PAJ.  Effects of protein tyrosine phosphatase 1B (PTP1B) inhibition on inflammation and atherosclerosis development. British Heart Foundation 2015-2017  £236,108

 

Wilson HM Smith & Nephew award 2015-2016 £4000

 

Crane I & Wilson HM Monocyte subset markers as biomarkers in asthma . NHS Grampian Endowment Funds. 2015-2016  £5525

 

Wilson HM & Rajnicek A Electrical stimulation to enhance macrophage function and accelerate wound healing NHS Grampian Endowment Funds. 2015-2016 £11,985

 

Thompson D, Brittenden J, Delibegovic M, Wilson HM  PTP1B Inhibition: A potential new target in the treatment of atherosclerosis. NHS Grampian Endowment Funds. 2015-2016 £11,163                                                                                    

 

Wilson HM & Morley T. Novel small molecule modulators of the antioxidant response pathway: potential for therapy in cancer/inflammatory disease. Medical Research Scotland. 2012-16.   £110,803

 

Wilson HM & Erwig LP The role of macrophage SOCS3 in the pathogenesis of renal disease. Kidney Research UK. 2013-15. £119,513

 

Wilson HM, Barker RN, McCaig.  Electric Fields – A novel regulators of macrophage activity. Institute of Medical Sciences Studentship. 2011-15.                                            £72760

 

Wilson HM Targeting macrophage SOCS3 for therapy in human renal disease NHS Grampian Endowments Fund. 2012-2013. £7365

 

Houslay M  MacNee W, Wilson HM, Arthur S, Novel drugs for treatment of Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).  SULSA 2013-14  £59,073

 

Nixon G & Wilson HM. The role of sphingolipids in monocyte binding: a potential therapeutic target in restenosis. British Heart Foundation 2013-2016   £104,438

 

Delibegovic M, Wilson HM, Brown PAJ.  Effects of Dietary Methionine Restriction on Kidney Pathology and Insulin NHS Grampian Endowment Funds. 2014-2015   £12000

 

Dawson D, Wilson HM, Kerr K, Liversidge J. Targeting the inflammation mechanism in stress-induced acute cardiomyopathy. NHS Grampian Endowment Funds. 2014-2015                                                          

2006-2010. Medical Research Council - Deviating macrophage activation in glomerulonephritis by SOCS proteins.

Teaching

Teaching Responsibilities

 

IM3501 Fundamentals of Immunology -course co-ordinator

IM3502 Applied Immunology - Human Health -course co-ordinator

Honours Immunology IM4007- Immunity and infection - course coordinator

Honours Immunology IM4005-Current Topics in Immunology-course coordinator

IM4006 current research in immunology - course coordinator

IM4307 option 2 immunology

Teach on

BM5502 MSc Immunology in Health and Disease

MB5028 MSc Cardiovascular Science and Diabetes

MB5518 MSc Research tutorials

MB5903 MSc Research projects

BA3004 Biochemical Pharmacology and Toxicology

Year1 MBChB (medicine) Science for Medicine

Year 1 MBChB (medicine) Student selected component (Immunology & Infection) co-ordinator

BM4009 Staying alive, adaptations in physiological systems

BT5007 Industrial projects

BI25M7 Energy for Life

External roles

External Examiner for the BSc Clinical Science unit/programme(s) in the Bristol Medical School

Further Info

External Responsibilities

External

Committees: Elected member of Renal Association, renal scientists working party (elected 2005 for 5 years) and education and training committee (2010)

Mentor for Carnegie scholars

Editorial Boards: Frontiers in Immunology, World Journal of Immunology

Ad hoc reviewer -Kidney International, Experimental Cell Research, Nephron-Experimental Nephrology, Journal of Leukocyte Biology, British Journal of Pharmacology, Journal of Immunology, European Journal of Neurology, Journal of Cellular and Molecular Medicine, Journal of Vascular Research, Journal of American Society of Nephrology.

Grant reviewer: Wellcome Trust, Medical Research Council (MRC), Heart Research UK, Medical Research Scotland 

Committe member for Grampian NHS Biorepository ethics Committee

Admin Responsibilities

Foresterhill Biological Safety committee chair

Academic line manager

Programme co-lead Immunity and infection

 

Potential PhD projects

SOCS3 expressing macrophages - a novel target for autoimmune and inflammatory disease

More specific and effective treatments for patients with progressive kidney disease are urgently required. Macrophages are a key feature in inflammatory diseases such as renal inflammation and atherosclerosis. Macrophages can cause tissue injury but are also important in repairing injured tissue. We aim to identify key molecules that switch macrophage function so instead of causing inflammation they promote healing. We have identified SOCS3 as one novel molecule and now we will establish whether manipulation of human macrophages via SOCS3 can reduce their pro-inflammatory properties and translate into important new therapies to treat susceptible patients.

Electric fields-novel regulators of immune cell responses

Tissue injury results in the generation of small endogenous EF, and recently these have been shown to be critical for wound healing via electrotaxis of cells such as epithelial cells and fibroblasts. Immune cells infiltrate sites of inflammation or tissue damage and therefore are also potential targets of EFs. The goals of the project are to characterise the responses of macrophages and T helper (Th) cells, two key immune cells that adopt either pro- or anti-inflammatory properties, to external EFs, and the immunological consequences of this in vivo. These studies will yield important new insights into the basic mechanisms underlying the role of EFs in directing the functional properties of immune cells and establish whether enhancing EFs provides a novel method for modulating their destructive, reparative or immunoregulatory properties.

The role of immune cell PTP1B in susceptibility to fungal infection.

Unravelling the molecular mechanisms and factors that regulate immune responses to fungi is critical for development of novel therapies to alleviate fungal infection. Host cells express pattern recognition receptors that sense the pathogen-associated molecular patterns (PAMPs) in fungi. However, the molecules controlling intracellular signalling mechanisms and outputs are unclear at present. In preliminary experiments, we have discovered a novel intracellular signalling molecule, protein tyrosine phosphatase 1B (PTP1B) that appears to play a role2. Knock out of this molecule, specifically in myeloid cells (neutrophils/monocytes/macrophages/dendritic cells) (LysM PTP1b-/-) renders mice more susceptible to systemic fungal (Candida albicans) infection. Research into the role of PTP1B in controlling immune responses and protecting against fungal infection is at an exciting stage. The aim of the studentship is now to fully characterise immune responses to fungal infection, focussing on PTP1B inhibited myeloid cells, either using clinical PTP1B inhibitors or bone marrow derived cells from LysM PTP1B-/- mice. We will compare the response of PTP1B inhibited/silenced immune cells to infection with Candida albicans with that of cells with intact PTP1B activity. The results will generate important data for driving the direction of this research in future studies and whether the PTP1B clinical inhibitors, currently in trials for breast cancer and diabetes, can change the susceptibility of patients to fungal infection.

 

Publications

Publications