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The University of Southampton
Biological Sciences
(023) 8120 3332

Prof Karen A Lillycrop BSc, PhD

Professor of Epigenetics, Principal Investigator (Transcriptional regulation & epigenetics),Deputy Head of Biological Sciences,Director of Research

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Prof Karen A Lillycrop is Deputy Head of Biological Sciences within Biological Sciences at the University of Southampton.

Career History

2014-present: Professor of Epigenetics. Biological Sciences, University of Southampton, UK.
2012- 2014: Reader in Epigenetics. Biological Sciences, University of Southampton, UK.
2007-2012: Senior Lecturer in Epigenetics. Biological Sciences, University of Southampton, UK.
1995-2007: Lecturer. Department of Biochemistry, University of Southampton, UK.
1987-1992: Postdoctoral Research Fellow. Department of Molecular Pathology, University College, London, UK.
1992-1995: Postdoctoral Research Fellow. Department of Molecular Pathology, University College, London, UK.

Academic Qualifications

1984-1987: Biochemistry PhD. University of Leicester, UK.
1981-1984: Chemistry and Biochemistry First Class BSc (Joint Hons). Imperial College London.

Highly cited

Research interests

EpiGen Global Research Consortium: Dr Lillycrop is a founder member of the Epigen consortium, an international consortium, investigating the role of epigenetic processes in the developmental origins of disease. Epigen members include the University of Southampton the Medical Research Council, AgResearch New Zealand, the University of Auckland, and the Singapore Institute of Clinical Sciences.

Epigenetic mechanisms and the developmental origins of health and disease
The incidence of non-communicable diseases (NCD) such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and the metabolic syndrome has risen sharply over the last 20 years and has now reached epidemic proportions. Genome wide association studies have shown that fixed genomic variations can only explain a fraction of the variation in NCD risk within a population. There is however increasing evidence that the environment particularly early life environment can influence our future disease risk. In humans a poor intrauterine environment has been associated with an increased risk of a range of non communicable diseases in later life. The mechanism by which early life environment can influence future disease risk is beginning to be understood and may involve epigenetic processes. Epigenetic processes are defined as processes that induce stable changes in gene activity without a change in gene sequence. The major epigenetic processes being DNA methylation, histone modification and miRNAs. There is now growing evidence that a range of environmental factors including diet can alter the epigenome. The epigenome is most susceptible to change during the prenatal and neonatal periods. The understanding of the mechanism by which early life environment can alter the epigenome leading to long term changes in disease risk is now critical both for the identification of individuals at increased risk and the development of intervention strategies to combat the rapid rise in NCDs.

Identification of epigenetic biomarkers for adult disease (EpiGen Consortium).
This academic consortium is comprised of researchers from University of Southampton, Liggins Institute, University of Auckland, AgResearch New Zealand, the Medical Research Council and the Singapore Institute of Clinical Sciences. Working together with the MRC Lifecourse Epidemiology Unit and the Southampton NHIR Biomedical Research Unit in Nutrition, Diet and Lifestyle the aim of EpiGen (led in the UK by Professor Mark Hanson, Professor Keith Godfrey, Professor Cyrus CooperDr Graham Burdge and Dr Karen Lillycrop) is to translate basic research in epigenetics into biomarkers and interventions to reduce the burden of non-communicable disease. In the UK, this translational research is centred around the Southampton Women's Survey.

PhD supervision

Eloise Cook: Epigenetic markers of bone health. MRC.
Mark Burton: The effect of folic acid supplementation on cancer determining genes. WCRF.
Eli Antoun: Understanding the molecular mechanisms underlying muscle ageing. MRC.

Research group

Plants and Food Security

Affiliate research groups

Computational and Systems Biology, Developmental Biology, Human Development and Health

Research project(s)

Epigenetic mechanisms and the developmental origins of health and disease

Epidemiological studies show that a poor intra-uterine environment induced by restricted maternal diet, placental insufficiency or endocrine factors induces a phenotype in the offspring which in humans is associated with increased risk of developing chronic non-communicable diseases.

Role of Pax-3 in sensory neurogenesis

Pax-3 is a member of a family of evolutionary conserved transcription factors which contain a conserved DNA binding domain of 128 aa, known as the paired domain.

Differentiation therapy and cancer

Many childhood cancers are caused by a failure to differentiate for instance neuroblastoma a childhood cancer of sympathetic nervous system arises when neural crest cells fail to differentiate.

Epigenetic mechanisms in metabolic bone disease: from pathology to biomarker

Effect of folic acid supplementation during the life course on cancer susceptibility

Identification of perinatal epigenetic markers of later phenotype

How do preimplantation embryos sense and respond to maternal nutrition affecting fetal development and adult health

Mechanisms by which maternal diet affects embryo development and health into adulthood.

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Module Co-ordinator

BIOL3015 Regulation of gene expression
BIOL3052 Biomedical Technology

EpiGen Global Research Consortium

Mission: To conduct cutting-edge research to discover the mechanisms underlying the interaction between the environmental factors, genetic and epigenetic processes with respect to their influence on health and the risk of disease across the life-course. Through our collaborative network we aim to accelerate the translation of our knowledge to make a positive impact on health, well-being and society.

EpiGen has several established and successful collaborations with both industry and academia. We continue to reach out to like-minded groups around the world who value synergistic collaboration for greater research impact.

Prof Karen A Lillycrop
Biological Sciences
Faculty of Environmental and Life Sciences
Life Sciences Building 85
University of Southampton
Highfield Campus
SO17 1BJ

Room Number: SGH/B/06

Facsimile: (023) 8120 3332

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