Dr John Barrow

Dr John Barrow
BSc(Hons) Biochemistry (2002); PhD Molecular Biology (2005); PGCert in Higher Education (2011), Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy

Senior Lecturer (Scholarship)

Dr John Barrow
Dr John Barrow

Contact Details

work +44 (0)1224 437493
The University of Aberdeen School of Medicine, Medical Sciences and Nutrition
Institute of Medical Sciences (Room 6:33)
University of Aberdeen
AB25 2ZD

British Science Association

Higher Education Academy

Biochemical Society

Diabetes UK


Kosterlitz Centre for Therapeutics, University of Aberdeen

Medical Sciences, University of Aberdeen

Institute of Medical Sciences, University of Aberdeen 


I graduated with BSc (Hons) in Biochemistry from the University of Aberdeen (UoA) in 2002 and then began a 3 year PhD in the lab of Prof. Kevin Docherty (UoA) studying various genes important in development of the endocrine pancreas (the islets of Langerhans). Following my PhD I began work in 2005 as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Dr. Alasdair MacKenzie’s lab (UoA). In 2009, I became a Teaching Fellow in the School of Medical Sciences, where my primary role switched towards the teaching of undergraduate students, predominantly studying in School of Medical Science degree programs, then in 2013 I gained promotion to Senior Teaching Fellow.

I also continue my gene regulation research, currently through collaborations with my old PhD supervisor (Prof Docherty) and the Kosterlitz Centre for Therapeutics.


Research Interests

My main research focus is around gene regulation and disease, with a particular interest in how genes involved in diabetes (e.g. the insulin gene) are regulated.

Gene regulation is critical to maintaining health and when things go wrong either developmentally or in adult life it can lead to disease or serious complications.  I have always been interesting in studying how genes are regulated, with a particular emphasis on how transcription factor proteins interact with the control regions of the genome.

These control regions take the form of DNA sequences directly in front of genes (promoters) and other sequences that lie within the genomic regions between genes (enhancers), or even within the genes they control.  These promoters and enhancers are believed to interact with each other to direct the specific expression of genes in a coordinated manner.  If this coordinated control of genes goes awry it can lead to disease as can be the case in various forms of diabetes.

Current Research

I currently work on regulation of the insulin gene and have particular interests in the use of stem cells and small chemical molecules as therapies for diabetes.

My current interests lie in understanding how the stem cell genome is controlled, with the aim of developing a greater understanding of the basic biology of stem cell genome plasticity.  This knowledge will allow us to understand how stem cells are able to develop and change and will open the doors to potential therapies for diseases like diabetes.

I am also working towards identifying small molecules as novel therapeutics for diabetes.  This work is in collaboration with the Kosterlitz Centre for Therapeutics and Prof Kevin Docherty.


Prof Kevin Docherty

Prof Matteo Zanda

Dr Iain Greig

Kosterlitz Centre for Therapeutics

Research Grants

  • Knowledge Exchange Transfer Fund - "Novel Small Molecule Theapeutics for Type 2 Diabetes"
  • Kosterlitz Centre for Therapeutics - "Novel Approaches to Stem Cell Treatments in Diabetes"
  • Biochemical Society Guildford Bench Award - "Decellularised Extracellular Matrix as a Stem Cell Growth Scaffold"

Teaching Responsibilities

Course coordinator for:

  • SM1001 (Introduction to Medical Science)
  • SM1501 (The Cell)
  • ME2017 (Science for Medicine - 1st Year MBChB degree)
  • BI25M7 (Energy for Life)
  • MB4050 (Honours Advanced Molecular Biology)
  • Molecular Medical Science Honours Year Coordinator

I also teach on the following courses:

Level 1:

  • SM1001 (Introduction to Medical Science)
  • SM1501 (The Cell)
  • SX1006 (The Mind Machine)
  • SX1505 (Science and the Media)
  • Yr 1 MBChB Medicine (Science for Medicine and the Student Selected Component)
  • Yr 1 Dentistry (Basic Science for Dentistry)

Level 2:

  • BI20B2 (Cell Physiology)
  • BI20M3 (Molecular Biology of the Gene)
  • BI25M7 (Energy for Life)
  • SM2001 (Foundations Skills for Medical Science)
  • SM2501 (Research Skills for Medical Science)
  • BI25B2 (Organ Physiology)

Level 3:

  • BM3006 (Molecules, Membranes and Cells)
  • SM3001 (Frontiers of Molecular Medical Sciences)
  • DB3005 (Principles of Development)
  • MC3504 (Molecular Microbiology)
  • IM3502 (Applied Immunology - Human Health)

Level 4:

  • MB4050 (Honours Advanced Molecular Biology)
  • BM4004 (Advanced Molecules, Membranes and Cells)
  • Honours project supervisor

Level 5:

  • MB5015(Molecular Biology Basics)
  • BT5503 (Laboratory Techniques Core Practical Skills)
  • BT5007 (MSci Industrial Placements)
Further Info

External Responsibilities

Reviewer for:

  • Oxford University Press
  • W.H. Freeman textbooks
  • Wiley-Blackwell textbooks
  • Journal of Molecular Endocrinology

Outreach Activities

Outreach activities including the running and organising of the following events:

  • ASPIRENorth - S3 student taster sessions for molecular biology and physiology
  • University Open Doors - hands on science practicals for the public and schools
  • Advanced Higher Biology Days - S6 student practicals in molecular biology and a showcase of University life
  • Royal Society of Edinburgh Medical Masterclasses - hands on science practicals for S1/S2 students

Professional Societies and Awards

  • Biochemical Society member
  • Genetics Society member
  • Diabetes UK member
  • ACERO member
  • British Science Association member
  • Fellow of the Higher Education Academy
  • Winner of the Aberdeen Student Led Teaching Award for Teaching for Employability (2010)
  • Winner of the College of Life Sciences Excellence in Teaching Award (2012)

Other Responsibilities

  • School of Medical Sicences Level 1 and Level 2 retention and progression coordinator
  • University Students 4 Students (S4S) peer mentoring scheme coordinator
  • Elected member of University Senate (2012-2016)
  • Member of the College of Life Sciences retention and progression committee


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