Professor Justin Rochford

Professor Justin Rochford
Professor Justin Rochford
Professor Justin Rochford

The Rochford lab is a member of the Nutrition Obesity and Disease theme at the Rowett Institute

Personal Chair

Email Address
Telephone Number
+44 (0)1224 437372
Office Address

Rowett Institute University of Aberdeen Foresterhill Aberdeen AB25 2ZD

School of Medicine, Medical Sciences and Nutrition


Professor Justin Rochford leads a research team at the Rowett Institute examining the effects of fat tissue on health. This includes multiple local, national and international collaborations that investigate how poor function of fat tissue can lead to diseases such as type 2 diabetes, liver disease, vascular disease and cancers. Poorly functioning fat tissue often occurs in overweight and obesity, which is associated with these diseases. The Rochford lab is part of the Aberdeen Cardiovascular and Diabetes Centre:

Aberdeen Cardiovascular & Diabetes Centre | The University of Aberdeen (

Professor Rochford's laboratory is particularly known for contributions to understanding a rare but very serious condition called lipodystrophy. Affected individuals have fat tissue that doesn't function properly. Normally, excess calories from food should be stored safely in fat tissue, keeping them away from other organs where they would do harm. In people with lipodystrophy, because their fat tissue doesn't work properly, fat can start to appear in organs like the liver, the pancreas and the muscle making them very unwell.

We undertake research that aims to understand what goes wrong in the fat cells to cause lipodystrophy so we can understand the disease better. We also study how poorly-functioning fat tissue affects the body. This can lead us to new treatments for common disease associated with overweight and obesity as well as for lipodystrophy. In addition, we develop and test treatments for lipodystrophy in order to identify desperately needed new ways to treat this condition.

If you would like to know more about lipodystrophy please check out these fantastic videos from those living with the condition. 

If you affected by lipodystrophy there is also really useful information and links form the UK charity Lipodystrophy UK:

Home | Lipodystrophy UK


Memberships and Affiliations

Internal Memberships

Justin Rochford co-led the Rowett Institute's successful application for an Athena SWAN bronze award in 2016 and remains a member of the Equality and Diversity Team at the Rowett.

Member of the School of Medicine, Medical Sciences and Nutrition Biological Safety Committee.

Member of Senate representing the School of Medicine, Medical Sciences and Nutrition.

External Memberships

Executive Board Member of European Consortium for the Study of Lipodystrophies (ECLip).

Editorial Board, Cells. Cells | An Open Access Journal from MDPI

Editorial Board, Frontiers in Endocrinology. Frontiers in Endocrinology

Grants Panel Member for Diabetes UK.


Diabetes UK

Biochemical Society

Society for Endocrinology


Latest Publications

  • Loss of GPR75 protects against non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and body fat accumulation

    Leeson-Payne, A., Iyinikkel, J., Malcolm, C., Lam, B. Y. H., Sommer, N., Dowsett, G. K. C., Blanco Martinez de Morentin, P., Thompson, D., MacKenzie, A., Chianese, R., Kentistou, K. A., Gardner, E. J., Perry, J. R., Grassmann, F., Speakman, J., Rochford, J., Yeo, G. S. H., Murray, F., Heisler, L.
    Cell Metabolism, vol. 36, no. 5, pp. 1076-1087
    Contributions to Journals: Articles
  • GLP-1 receptor agonist improves metabolic disease in a pre-clinical model of lipodystrophy

    Roumane, A., Mcilroy, G. D., Sommer, N., Han, W., Heisler, L. K., Rochford, J. J.
    Frontiers in Endocrinology, vol. 15, 1379228
    Contributions to Journals: Articles
  • Proceedings of the annual meeting of the European Consortium of Lipodystrophies (ECLip), Pisa, Italy, 28–29 September 2023

    Ceccarini, G., Akinci, B., Araujo-Vilar, D., Beghini, M., Brown, R. J., Carrion Tudela, J., Corradin, V., Donadille, B., Jerez Ruiz, J., Jeru, I., Lattanzi, G., Maffei, M., McIlroy, G. D., Nobécourt, E., Perez de Tudela, N., Rochford, J. J., Sanders, R., von Schnurbein, J., Tews, D., Vantyghem, M. C., Vatier, C., Vigouroux, C., Santini, F.
    Contributions to Journals: Conference Articles
  • Hydroxysteroid 17-beta dehydrogenase 13(Hsd17b13)knockdown attenuates liver steatosis in high-fat diet obese mice

    Mahmood, S., Morrice, N., Thompson, D., Milanizadeh, S., Wilson, S., Whitfield, P. D., Mcilroy, G. D., Rochford, J. J., Mody, N.
    Working Papers: Preprint Papers
  • Proceedings of the annual meeting of the European Consortium of Lipodystrophies (ECLip) Cambridge, UK, 7–8 April 2022

    Mosbah, H., Akinci, B., Araújo-Vilar, D., Carrion Tudela, J., Ceccarini, G., Collas, P., Farooqi, I. S., Fernández-Pombo, A., Jéru, I., Karpe, F., Krause, K., Maffei, M., Miehle, K., Oral, E., Perez de Tudela, N., Prieur, X., Rochford, J., Sanders, R., Santini, F., Savage, D. B., von Schnurbein, J., Semple, R., Stears, A., Sorkina, E., Vantyghem, M. C., Vatier, C., Vidal-Puig, A., Vigouroux, C., Wabitsch, M.
    Annales d'Endocrinologie, vol. 83, no. 6, pp. 461-468
    Contributions to Journals: Editorials

View My Publications


Research Overview


My group focuses on the molecular mechanisms controlling adipocyte differentiation and the functions of mature fat cells generated by this process. Humans turn over adipocytes at a rate of approximately 10% each year so adipocyte development is a process relevant throughout life. Having appropriately functioning fat cells is critical for human health as these cells provide an essential safe store for dietary nutrients, particularly lipids, and protect other tissues in the body from their harmful effects. This is perhaps most clearly demonstrated by individuals with severe forms of lipodystrophy who fail to appropriately develop or maintain adipose tissue and suffer severe insulin resistance and metabolic disease as a consequence. Lipid is stored in adipocytes in a large fat droplet mainly comprised of triglyceride. The storage and release of this lipid is highly regulated and is a defining function of mature adipocytes. In addition adipocytes secrete many factors that affect appetite, insulin sensitivity and metabolic health.  In obesity, despite abundant adipose tissue, the adipocytes appear to be dysfunctional and their lipid storage capacity may be exceeded, leading to overflow of lipids to other tissues. For this reason obese individuals may suffer similar metabolic problems to patients with lipodystrophy. Overall, this means that understanding the development and function of adipocytes may lead us to new therapies by which these can be modified to treat both rare lipodystrophies and common obesity.


Current Lab Members:

Ahlima Roumane, Post-doctoral fellow

Nadine Sommer, EASTBIO PhD student



Former Lab Members:

Dr George Mcilroy. Post-doctoral fellow, now Diabetes UK R.D. Lawrence Fellow

Alexander Bartholomew, NES MTP MRes student 2022-2023

Dr Alasdair Leeson-Payne. PhD student 2015-2019

Dr Elisa Persiani. PhD student 2014-2018

Dr Emma McDermott. PhD student 2015-2018

Dr Anh Tran. PhD student 2014-2018

Dr. Miriam Lettieri. Research Assistant 2014-2017

Dr Boris Monge Rofarello.  Post-doctoral fellow 2013-2017


Lipodystrophy genes as critical regulators of human fat development:

A key approach we are taking is to investigate the functional roles of genes known to cause lipodystrophy in humans, particularly those whose disruption causes severe loss of adipose tissue. Evidently the products of these genes are critical for the development of adipose tissue in humans, however, relatively little is known about their molecular role in developing adipocytes. We use a range of techniques to understand the function of these proteins including immunofluorescence/confocal microscopy to examine subcellular localisation and trafficking, transcriptional and protein analyses to determine their importance in adipogenesis, binding studies and proteomics to identify and characterise novel binding partners and lipidomics to investigate their involvement in lipid biosynthesis, a key component of adipocyte differentiation.

This work is exemplified by our studies of the protein seipin, encoded by the gene BSCL2. Patients with disruption of seipin have almost no detectable adipose tissue and we were the first to show that this may result from an inability to make new fat cells from stem cells lacking seipin. However, the precise function of seipin has remained unknown until very recently. We have previously shown that seipin acts as a binding protein for known regulators of adipogenesis which may at least partly explain why it is needed for adipocyte development. However, we have also identified multiple other binding proteins, both in developing and in mature adipocytes. A major component of our research is to investigate these further both in vitro and in vivo.

Understanding what the products of lipodystrophy genes do, the pathways they influence and the proteins they regulate will give key insights into human adipose tissue development and function. By identifying novel pathways and proteins that can influence adipocyte function, this work may also reveal new therapeutic targets for the treatment of common obesity and metabolic disease. This work is funded by the BBSRC, Diabetes UK, the EFSD, The Wellcome Trust and the MRC.

For more about lipodystrophy see our blog post:


Research Areas

Biomedical Sciences

Nutrition and Health

Research Specialisms

  • Nutrition
  • Physiology
  • Biomedical Sciences
  • Endocrinology
  • Diabetes

Our research specialisms are based on the Higher Education Classification of Subjects (HECoS) which is HESA open data, published under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International licence.

Funding and Grants

Current Funding:

- BBSRC Project Grant: “Lipid to store? Send in the Seipin: Dissecting the Critical Roles for Seipin in Cellular and Organismal Lipid Storage.” Rochford JJ (PI) Delibegovic M (Co-I) 01/09/21-31/08/24. £599,424

- EASTBIO PhD studentship: “Coupling novel non-invasive imaging methods and new gene therapies to detect and treat type 2 diabetes” Rochford JJ (PI) Broche L (Co-I) 01/09/21-31/08/25.

- BBSRC Project Grant:” Defining the underpinnings of Neuropeptide Y (NPY)'s control of hunger and body fat” Heisler LK (PI), Rochford JJ (Co-I) 15/03/19-14/07/22. £548,427


Previous Funding:

- The Instituto de Salud Carlos III (Spanish Institute of Health) “Therapeutic approaches to celia encephalopathy (PELD) in humans and in murine "knock in" BSCL2 Celia / Celia models” Araujo Vilar D (PI), Rochford JJ (Co-I) 01/03/19-28/02/22. €99,500.

 - Wellcome Trust Institutional Strategic Support Fund pilot grant: "Developing viral therapeutics for the treatment of severe diabetes and metabolic disease in lipodystrophy" Rochford JJ (PI) Mcilroy GD (Co-I) 01/12/20-01/06/21.£17,469.

- Diabetes UK Project Grant: “New Treatments for Severe Type 2 Diabetes in Lipodystrophy” Rochford JJ (PI) Heisler LK (Co-I) 01/02/19-31/04/21. £159,536

- NHS Grampian Endowments “Fast Field Cycling/Magnetic Resonance Imaging (FFC-MRI): A New Diagnostic that Reveals Acutely Inflamed Coronary Artery Plaques by Detecting Fat Dysfunction”. PI Dawson D, Rochford JJ (Co-I) 01/04/18-31/03/19. £9,350

- WT Strategic Award to the Institute of Metabolic Science, University of Cambridge. PI O’Rahilly S, Rochford (Co-I, plus 9 others) 01/07/13-30/06/19. £4.7M

- MRC Discovery Award “Defining the role of seipin in the central regulation of energy metabolism”. Rochford JJ (PI), Heisler LK. Start: 11/2017. 6 months.  £23,344.

- NHS Research Endowment Trust pilot grant. “The role of joint fat in osteoarthritis.” Roelofs AJ, De Bari C, Rochford JJ (Co-I). Start: 04/2017. 12 months. £11,971.

- Wellcome Trust Institutional Strategic Support Fund pilot grant. “Defining the metabolic properties of mechanical fat, an adipose depot with unexplored therapeutic potential.” Rochford JJ (PI), Roelofs AJ, De Bari C. Start: 04/2016. 6 months. £13,960.

- MRC Project Grant: “Defining the Role of the Human Lipodystrophy Protein Seipin in Adipose Tissue Development and Metabolic Disease”. 01/06/13-01/11/17. £435,613

- BBSRC Project Grant: “Delineating the regulation and function of gamma-synuclein in adipocyte lipid metabolism”. PI: JJ Rochford 01/02/13-31/01/17.  £376,972

- MRC New Investigator Research Grant “Elucidating the Function of BSCL2, a Critical Regulator of Human Fat Development” PI: JJ Rochford 01/03/09-31/09/12. £357,799


Teaching Responsibilities

Course co-ordinator: SR4008 Nutrition, Obesity and Metabolic Health.

BC3503 The Molecular Control of Cell Function

B125M7 Energy for Life

SM2501 Reserach Skills for Medical Sciences

BM5518 Genetics Research Tutorials