Liverpool Obesity Research Network (LORN)

Discovery Science

LORN scientists are studying mechanisms within the brain, the gut and in fat tissue to understand the causes of energy imbalance associated with weight gain, and the mechanisms underpinning obesity related metabolic disorders. Research ranges from the genetic and biochemical to the behavioural reflecting the wide range of expertise of LORN members in metabolic physiology, gastro-intestinal regulation, endocrinology, neuroscience and psychology. This basic science, termed 'Discovery', will lead not only to new understanding of the causes of obesity but also identify potential targets for obesity treatment. These targets exist within the CNS (Serotonin - 5-HT, Melanocortins, Endocannabinoids; nutrient sensing neurons), the gut (Gastrin, Ghrelin, Cholecystokinin - CCK) and adipose tissue (adipokines, leptin, adiponectin, other adipocyte regulatory proteins, nutrient transporters).

Biopsychology Group

The roles of central and peripheral mechanisms in the behavioural aspects of energy regulation form the core interest research of the Biopsychology group.  Research focuses both on homeostatic and the non-homeostatic mechanisms critical to energy regulation. The group has also developed models of obesity, adiposity and metabolic abnormalities.

  • Drs Harrold and Halford have specific interests in the role of serotonin (5-HT) in appetite expression (5-HT2C and 5-HT6 receptors). 
  • Dr Harrold has extensively studied the role of CNS Melanocortins (MC), Orexins, MCH and Ghrelin in energy regulation. 
  • Professor Kirkham, Dr Tucci and Dr Harrold have extensively researched the role on the endocannabinoid in appetite expression. They have demonstrated the action of anandamide, 2-AG and noladin ether to stimulate eating via specific actions at central CB1 cannabinoid receptors, the changes in brain levels of these substances as a function of nutritional status, and also linked CB1 mechanisms to the development of obesity resulting from overconsumption of palatable, energy-dense foods.
  • Drs Goudie, Harrold and Halford also have an interest in the mechanisms underpinning atypical antipsychotic induced hyperphagia, body weight gain, and changes in body composition and have worked on this since 1999. 

Current projects include in vivo microdialysis to assess CNS neurotransmitter involvement in the control of appetite, and particularly the processes modulating food anticipation and palatability.

Many of projects are funded by industry partners (including Servier, Epix Pharmaceuticals, Prosidion, Neurosearch).  Other funds have come from the BBSRC.

Epithelial Signalling Research Group

The research of Professors Dockray, Dimaline and Varro, and Dr Mora involves the study of the role of

  1. the hormone gastrin in regulating gastric epithelial architecture
  2. the related hormone cholecystokinin (CCK) in regulating food intake, and
  3. glucose homeostasis and the epithelial transport mechanisms that may be disrupted in insulin resistance. 

Current Funding:

Work in this group is funded by Research Councils (MRC and BBSRC) at both programme and project levels, by the Wellcome Trust and by the North West Cancer Research Fund.  Details of specific grants can be found on staff pages.

Obesity Biology Unit

The research of Professor Trayhurn, Dr Woods and Dr Bing centres on understanding the biology of adipose tissue at the molecular level by investigating the production, regulation and function of these adipokines - in addition to other adipocyte regulatory proteins and nutrient transporters. 

Current Funding:

The unit currently hold three BBSRC project grants.  Details of specific grants can be found on staff pages.

Veterinary Sciences

The current research of Dr Pickavance and Dr Morris focuses on nutrient sensing within the CNS and neural control of energy regulation.  Collaborations with other LORN members focus on nutrient sensing in the gut and on adipose tissue biology, particularly, endocrine regulation and adipocyte function.

Dr Pickavance also has experience in models of obesity and metabolic syndrome.

For a list specific techniques and protocols offered within the LORN network please visit our techniques, assays and protocols page.