International Conference of Trace Elements and Minerals, Aachen, Germany.

Between the  5th-10th June seven members of the Metal Ions in Medicine Group were in Aachen, Germany to present their work at the International Conference of Trace Elements and Minerals. Dr Alan Stewart organised and chaired a session on Zinc in Cardiovascular Disease and gave a talk on aberrant plasma zinc handling in type 2 diabetes. Dr Samantha Pitt and Dr Amy Dorward gave Invited Talks each focussed on the role of zinc in heart failure. Jordan March gave an Oral Presentation on the role of zinc in platelets, while Stephen Hierons, Dongmei Wu and Spencer Regan-Smith gave poster presentations based on their research. The group would like to thank the organisers of the conference, particularly Prof. Lothar Rink for what was an exciting meeting held in a beautiful and historically-important city.

7th International Caparica Conference on Analytical Proteomics (ICAP)

On the 14th July Dr Alan Stewart gave an online invited talk at the 7th International Caparica Conference on Analytical Proteomics (ICAP), 2021 held in Lisbon, Portugal. The talk was entitled “Plasma fatty acid levels control circulatory zinc speciation: Relevance to pro-coagulatory disorders from speciomic and lipidomic studies”. He would like to thank the organisers, especially Prof Capelo for (as always!) a really exciting and engaging meeting.

£1M UKRI-BBSRC/FAPESP Grant Award to Alan Stewart: A “speciomic” toolkit to investigate fatty acid-mediated changes in plasma zinc speciation and their physiological effects

Dr Alan Stewart has been awarded £978,876 from the BBSRC to fund a new bilateral project entitled “A “speciomic” toolkit to investigate fatty acid-mediated changes in plasma zinc speciation and their physiological effects”. The work will be a collaboration between researchers at the Universities of St Andrews, Warwick in the UK and Campinas in Brazil. The project, which Dr Stewart will lead, has been awarded additional funding from FAPESP (The São Paulo Research Foundation) to support the work in Brazil. As part of this study, state-of-the-art and bespoke analytical methods will be employed to understand the (re)distribution of zinc within plasma in the presence of high concentrations of fatty acids, mirroring conditions observed in disease states. The impact of this dynamic on physiological processes including insulin signalling and cellular zinc uptake will also be examined. Prof Claudia Blindauer will oversee work at the University of Warwick and Profs Marco Arruda and Carlos Ramos the research at University of Campinas.

Samantha Pitt has been elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Biology

Samantha Pitt has been elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Biology (FRSB).

The Royal Society of Biology works to facilitate the promotion of new discoveries in biological science for national and international benefit, and to engage the wider public with the work of the Society.

For election as a Fellow an individual needs to have made a prominent contribution to the advancement of the biological sciences and gained no less than five years’ experience in a position of senior responsibility.

British Heart Foundation – Lunch and Learn Talk

On the 15th June 2021, Dr Alan Stewart gave a Lunch and Learn talk for the British Heart Foundation based upon his research.

The talk was entitled “Could zinc be the key to new diabetes treatments?” and featured a small quiz. The audience was made up of fundraisers and other BHF staff based throughout the UK.

BHF Project Grant Awarded to Samantha Pitt: Cellular zinc is at the heart of sarcoplasmic reticulum calcium leak in cardiac muscle

Dr Samantha Pitt has just been awarded a 3 year BHF project grant to investigate how zinc regulates diastolic calcium leak to drive cardiac dysfunction. This award will enable the talented Amy Dorward to continue her work in this area as a PDRA. The project will use a combination of electrophysiology, molecular biology and cutting-edge microscopy techniques (supervised by Dr Juan Varela, School of Biology) to understand the intrinsic relationship between cardiac cellular Zn2+ and Ca2+-dynamics in the failing heart.

We would like to thank the BHF for their continued support of our research.


Samantha Pitt has been elected as President-Elect for the International Society for Zinc Biology

Dr Samantha Pitt has been elected as President-Elect for the International Society for Zinc Biology (ISZB). The ISZB brings together scientists from around the world in a diversity of fields with a common interest in the structural, biochemical, genetic and physiological aspects of zinc biology. She will serve in this position for 2 years before moving to the role of President of the society in 2023.

UKRI-BBSRC Grant Awarded to Samantha Pitt – High-resolution structure, function and anti-viral inhibition of the SARS-CoV-2 E protein ion channel

Dr Samantha Pitt and partners from University of Dundee (Prof Ulrich Zachariae) and Trinity College Dublin (Prof Martin Caffrey), have recently been awarded a UKRI-BBSRC grant to address problems related to COVID-19. Employing an interdisciplinary approach, the team will use structure-based drug design to accelerate the discovery of drugs to target SARS-CoV2 by enabling focused, rational approaches to design and repurposing. The project aims to i) solve high-resolution crystal-structures of CoV2E (ii) apply computational electrophysiology and in silico screens including cheminformatics/machine learning approaches to identify CoV2E inhibitors from libraries of commercially available and repurposing drugs, and (iii) perform lead validation and further development of inhibitors by electrophysiology and crystallography.



Fatty acids influence blood clotting through modulation of plasma zinc – new publication in Chemical Science

The Metal Ions in Medicine group have just published new data that may shed light on how fats in your blood could affect your health. The paper entitled “Albumin-mediated alteration of plasma zinc speciation by fatty acids modulates blood clotting in type-2 diabetes” has just been accepted for publication in the high impact journal, Chemical Science. In this study, it was found that free fatty acids  influence certain blood clotting characteristics including parameters relating to fibrin clot formation as well as platelet aggregation. It was found that the mechanism of action most likely involves reduction of zinc binding to the protein, serum albumin (the main zinc and fatty acid carrier protein in the blood) and a consequent increase in binding of zinc to proteins that regulate clot formation. The study suggests that this mechanism may contribute to pathogenic clot formation, which is more frequently observed in individuals with disease states marked by elevated plasma fatty acid levels, such as type-2 diabetes, obesity and fatty liver disease.

Dr Samantha Pitt becomes a commitee member of the Scottish Cardiovascular Forum

Dr Samantha Pitt has been invited to become a committee member of the Scottish Cardiovascular Forum to represent the University of St Andrews. The Scottish Cardiovascular Forum was launched in October 1997, with the aim of fostering integration, encouraging collaboration and assisting in the dissemination of information among basic science and clinical cardiovascular researchers in Scotland and further afield.