James Thorne

Job Title: UAF in Epigenetics, Food & Health

I am a molecular biologist who has worked in laboratories throughout the UK including Imperial, UCL and the Universities of Birmingham and Leeds. My UAF appointment was made under the call to investigate links between nutrition, epigenetics and disease. My research interests reflect this and are focused on aggressive cancers that do not currently have tailored therapies and how these diseases can be better treated or even prevented through nutritional programming of the epigenome. The epigenome is a regulatory network that controls changes to gene expression that do not occur due to DNA base changes, for example DNA methylation, post-translation modification of histones, miRNAs, and the regulation of transcription factor binding to gene promoters.

Vitamin D (Calcitriol), Vitamin A (Retinoic Acid), and cholesterol metabolites (hydroxycholesterols) regulate the epigenome and activate transcription factors (VDR, RXR and LXR respectively) in tissues throughout the body. Key cellular processes such as proliferation, metabolism and apoptosis are regulated by these and other nutrients. These cellular processes are frequently corrupted in cancer so using “Nutraceuticals” to restore control of diseased tissue is an important emerging tool in the fight against cancer. A famous example is the use of retinoic acid to restore proliferative control in APML-leukemia. During my UAF I hope to clarify how nutrients could be used by the pharmaceutical industry to improve treatment outcomes and by the food industry to offer stratified nutrition as an effective, simple and cheap way of preventing disease in different at risk groups.

I have an extensive collaborative network from across Leeds University and other academic institutions in the UK, US and Europe as well as links with Industry and the NHS. My approach is highly multi-disciplinary and includes molecular and cell biology wet lab work, dietary intervention studies, mathematical modelling, next-generation sequencing and bioinformatics of transcriptome and epigenome data, synthetic chemistry, patient tissue culture and analysis. I am always curious of new and interesting proposals so please, if you have an idea which you would like to work on in my laboratory or collaborate on a project, get in touch.