King's College London

Research portal

Dr Jane Howard

Research interests

My research focuses on immune-endocrine interactions. We were the first to report that the adipocyte-derived hormone leptin, a key regulator of food intake and energy homeostasis, is also an important immune-modulatory cytokine linking nutritional status with immune function (Nature 1998, JCI 1999). Further work in the Flier Lab at Harvard investigated the role of suppressor of cytokine signalling 3 as a potential molecular mediator of leptin resistance (Nature Medicine 2004, Cell Metabolism 2006). I have continued and developed my interest in immunometabolism at KCL.

The close association between nutrient excess and alterations in the cellular and molecular mediators of inflammation and immunity is being increasingly appreciated, particularly in the development of obesity and insulin resistance. 

Both type 2 diabetes and obesity are characterized by a low-grade inflammatory state. Alteration of immune cell subpopulations in adipose tissue is a major part of this process. Early studies examined the role of adipose tissue macrophages in obesity, but recent reports suggest a key role of the adaptive immune system. Adipose tissue (AT)-associated T cells have been proposed to play an important role in the regulation of body weight and insulin sensitivity.

In obesity there is a progressive bias towards a pro-inflammatory T helper 1 (Th1) cell phenotype in fat which is associated with insulin resistance. In obesity, pro-inflammatory Th1 cell numbers substantially increase and there is a decline in the proportion of Foxp3+ Tregs, which are thought to exert anti-inflammatory effects in adipose tissue.  Recent reports indicate that Tregs have a role beyond classical modulation of the immune response; increasing evidence suggests that visceral adipose tissue CD4+ Foxp3+ Tregs may have a role to play in insulin sensitivity. Indeed, in obese AT, their proportion as well as their anti-inflammatory function is reduced drastically. The observed recruitment to, and expansion of, adipose tissue Th1 cells and decline in Tregs has been reported both obese mice and humans. Thus, in obesity, there are alterations in adipose tissue immune cell populations, which regulate the inflammatory environment and this impacts on energy balance and glucose homeostasis.

Research in the Howard lab aim of the research is to understand the molecular basis of the role of the immune system and inflammation in obesity and insulin resistance using both in vitro and in vivo models. We have been particularly interested in the role of the immune cell transcription factor, T-bet in this process. Additional projects have looked at the role of T-bet in intestinal mucosal immune responses and mir142 as an immunometabolic regulator.

 

Participation in conference

Plenary lecture at MRS, London

Jane Howard (Keynote/plenary speaker)
2005 → …

Activity: Participating in or organising an eventParticipation in conference

Foster club, Department of Physiology - Cambridge

Jane Howard (Keynote/plenary speaker)
2001 → …

Activity: Participating in or organising an eventParticipation in conference

Types of External academic engagement - Membership of peer review panel or committee

Diabetes UK

Jane Howard (Member)
2001 → …

Activity: OtherTypes of External academic engagement - Membership of peer review panel or committee

The Wellcome Trust

Jane Howard (Member)
2001 → …

Activity: OtherTypes of External academic engagement - Membership of peer review panel or committee

MRC

Jane Howard (Member)
2001 → …

Activity: OtherTypes of External academic engagement - Membership of peer review panel or committee

Publication peer-review

Journal of Endocrinology (Journal)

Jane Howard (Peer reviewer)
2007 → …

Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial workPublication peer-review

Journal of Neuroendocrinology (Journal)

Jane Howard (Peer reviewer)
2001 → …

Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial workPublication peer-review

Types of External academic engagement - Membership of external research organisation

Diabetes UK

Jane Howard (Member)
2001 → …

Activity: OtherTypes of External academic engagement - Membership of external research organisation

British Society of Immunology

Jane Howard (Member)
2001 → …

Activity: OtherTypes of External academic engagement - Membership of external research organisation

Society for Endocrinology

Jane Howard (Member)
2001 → …

Activity: OtherTypes of External academic engagement - Membership of external research organisation

Diabetes UK

Jane Howard (Member)
2001 → …

Activity: OtherTypes of External academic engagement - Membership of external research organisation

Royal College of Physicians

Jane Howard (Fellow)
2001 → …

Activity: OtherTypes of External academic engagement - Membership of external research organisation

Types of Award - Fellowship awarded competitively

MRC Clinical Training Fellowship

Jane Howard (Recipient)
19962000

Activity: OtherTypes of Award - Fellowship awarded competitively

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