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Dr Ann Walker
Centre for Cardiovascular Genetics
BHF Laboratories, Rayne Building
Tel: 0044 20 7679 6279
  • Senior Lecturer in Medical Genetics
  • Centre for Cardiovascular Genetics
  • Institute of Cardiovascular Science
  • Faculty of Population Health Sciences
Research Summary
I am interested in the genetic regulation of iron and zinc, and interactions with lipid metabolism and inflammation, as potentially tractable determinants of cardiovascular health.

Iron and variants of iron-metabolic genes have been implicated by several lines of evidence in atherosclerosis and hypertension.  Genome wide association studies have consistently found associations with between specific variants of the gene encoding the iron regulatory protein HFE and risk factors for cardiovascular disease: red blood cell traits haemoglobin concentration and haematocrit, which may predispose to increased viscosity and blood pressure; increased blood pressure itself, and abnormalities of plasma lipid profiles.   Also, excess iron is deposited in atherosclerotic plaque and this may be implicated in progression of plaque macrophages to lipid-filled foam cells.  Iron homeostasis is also strongly regulated by inflammation.  Zinc transporter variants have been associated with blood pressure. Research is focussed on investigating the mechanisms underlying these associations, and the  identification of genetic sub-groups of patients in whom iron-related risk of cardiovascular disease may be treatable.

Putative mechanisms underlying the association of HFE variants with blood pressure will be investigated by testing associations with candidate intermediate traits, red blood cell and iron measures, lipid measures and blood viscosity.   These studies are collaborative, benefitting from large and well-characterised prospective observational study cohorts in the UCLEB Consortium. Cell culture studies of monocytic cells and primary monocyte-derived macrophage cells will be used to investigate the effect of HFE genotype and iron status upon lipid uptake and metabolism.  Studies are in development to investigate blood pressure and arrhythmias in haemochromatosis (hereditary iron overload) and controls according to iron load and HFE genotype, and to investigate the effects of iron supplementation in anaemic women upon measures of arterial structure and function and on blood pressure.

Teaching Summary
I am the Module Tutor for the Gastroenterology and Hepatology Specialist Module of the MSc in Clinical and Experimental Medicine.

I am a Lecturer and Internal Examiner for the Intercalated BSc in Clinical Sciences course and a Lecturer on the MBBS Year 2 Student Selected Module, Hepatology - From Science to Clinical Practice
Academic Background
1987 PhD Doctor of Philosophy University of London
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