Dundee researcher listed in 2014 World's Most Influential Scientific Minds

Professor Colin Palmer's work on human genetics recognised by Thomson Reuters

Fri, 11/07/2014 - 09:56

University of Dundee Professor Colin Palmer has been recognised as a Highly Cited Researcher by Thompson Reuters, which is the main organisation that assesses research impact globally - used by governments and official research bodies to determine research performance of individuals and institutions. 

As a Highly Cited Researcher, he is also listed in the rankings of the 2014 World's Most Influential Scientific Minds. 

Chair of Pharmacogenomics at Dundee Medical School, Professor Palmer focuses on the role of genes and how these can impact an individual's susceptibility to disease or their reaction to treatment. Among his responsibilities, he is Project Chief Investigator of GoSHARE, which is examining DNA strands produced from anonymised leftover blood from routine blood tests, that members of the public have consented to be used for research.

Human genetics has been transformed since the sequencing of the human genome in 2001. This is highly collaborative work and most of Professor Palmer's collaborators in human genetics are also on the Highly Cited Researcher list. 

"I was involved in the discovery of the FTO pie gene, and showed in Tayside children that the main gene for obesity worked by controlling eating behaviours," explained Professor Palmer. "I have also been involved in the discovery of over 50 genes for type 2 diabetes, and over 150 genes that control the levels of fat in the blood.   I have also shown that individuals who have a "broken" gene for a statin pump in the liver are much more likely to be intolerant of these drugs and have to be taken off them.  This can be as much as 20% of the people taking statins in Tayside, which of course is a highly topical subject at the moment ! "

Professor Palmer's work has also found genes that predict whether a person is more likely to respond to several other commonly used drugs such as metformin, and he is currently leading a EU wide study into finding the genes that may predispose to side effects to blood pressure lowering drugs.  

"We are especially interested in determining what genes are responsible for very dangerous swelling reactions in the mouth and throat that may occur in 1% of individuals taking ACE inhibitors. This will use the latest whole genome sequencing technology," said Professor Palmer.

This vital research has been possible due to the excellent  participation of Tayside residents in genetic studies, where over 10% of the population (over 40,000 people) have already taken part in such studies.  

In order to further determine the use of genomics in medicine, scientists need to study many more people, taking many different types of medicines, and those not taking any medicines. This is the main driver for the GoSHARE initiative, with over 21,000 people having given permission for the use of spare blood in research in the 12 months up to July 2014.

If you are in Scotland and wish to allow scientists to examine any of your leftover blood samples from routine tests at your GP or hospital, register here

From the University of Dundee, Professors Andrew Morris FRSE, FMedSci (Professor of Medicine) and Grahame Hardie FRS, FRSE, FMedSci (Professor of Cellular Signalling) are also recognised as 2014 Highly Cited Researchers by Thompson Reuters.