Obesity is associated with insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer and many other devastating diseases. Western eating habits (which include foods rich in fats and sugars), obesity and insulin resistance can all cause cellular inflammation. This means that the cells of our immune system become overactive and we become more susceptible to environmental challenges that can lead to exaggerated inflammatory responses, such as septic shock.
We study proteins called tyrosine phosphatases that regulate the activity of immune cells by acting as crucial ON-OFF switches. The one that we are most interested in is called Protein Tyrosine Phosphatase 1B (PTP1B). PTP1B is involved in many different biological processes and due to its role in the regulation of glucose and fat metabolism, is already a major drug target and is in clinical trials for treatment of type 2 diabetes.
We are investigating the role of PTP1B in inflammation and regulation of the immune system. In particular we aim to understand how PTP1B works to boost the body’s immune defences against infection and cancer. We will use the most advanced next-generation DNA sequencing technology to identify specific proteins that work with PTP1B in immune cells. This will give us a greater insight into how PTP1B’s action can influence the development of either diabetes or cancer, allowing for development of targeted treatments. Moreover, we will be able to identify molecules that cause tumours in response to PTP1B’s activity. Understanding the role of PTP1B in these processes is crucial for designing successful therapies for different diseases.