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Dr Matthew Loxham BSc(Hons), MRes, PhD

BBSRC Future Leader Fellow/NIHR Southampton Biomedical Research Centre Senior Research Fellow

Dr Matthew Loxham's photo

Dr Matthew Loxham is a BBSRC Future Leader Fellow and NIHR Southampton Biomedical Research Centre Senior Research Fellow in Respiratory Biology and Air Pollution Toxicology in the Faculty of Medicine, University of Southampton.

Every day we inhale billions of air pollution particles from a range of sources. We are only beginning to understand the effects these particles can have on our health, and the mechanisms by which these effects occur.

Matthew Loxham graduated from the University of Sheffield with a BSc (Hons) in Pharmacology.  After remaining in Sheffield for a period of research studying lung mast cell biology with Dr Peter Peachell, he moved to the University of Southampton, taking a Master of Research degree in Respiratory Biology.  He followed this with an interdisciplinary PhD under the supervision of Professors Donna Davies (Medicine), Martin Palmer, and Damon Teagle (Ocean and Earth Science).  His doctoral research, in collaboration with Professor Flemming Cassee at the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM), focused on the link between the chemistry and the biological effects of particulate matter found in underground railway stations.  A key finding of his doctoral research was that the smallest particles found in the air in underground systems are much richer in metals than similarly sized particles in the outdoor air, making underground particulate matter potentially more toxic than that found above ground.

A three year period of postdoctoral research with Professor Donna Davies focused on airway epithelial responses to a range of exogenous factors, including particulate matter, airborne allergens, and viruses, with a particular focus on epithelial responses leading to airway inflammation and airway remodelling.

In late 2016, Dr Loxham was awarded a BBSRC Future Leader Fellowship, focusing on the health effects of particulate matter from ships and dockside emissions sources.  Following this, in late 2018, he was awarded a Senior Research Fellowship from the NIHR Southampton Biomedical Research Centre to investigate mechanisms of metal regulation in cells exposed to metal-rich particulate matter.  He has also received a Springboard award from the Academy of Medical Sciences to study redox changes in response to metal nanoparticle exposure.


Appointments held

Research interests

Dr Loxham’s research focuses on the health effects of air pollution, with particular attention on airborne particulate matter.  He is especially interested in how the effects of particles on cells varies according to particle characteristics such as chemistry and size.  These factors differ according to the source of the particles, and it is hoped that a better understanding of these factors will aid improved knowledge of the health effects of these particles, to which we are constantly exposed.  He is also interested in the airway epithelium and asthma, and how responses to particulate matter may differ in the asthmatic airway.  As well as particulate matter, his work also examines responses following exposure to allergens and viral infection of the airways.

Particle characterisation techniques used in Dr Loxham’s work include airborne particle collection, inductively-coupled plasma mass spectrometry, ion chromatography, isotope analysis, and transmission and scanning electron microscopy.  Cell and molecular biology techniques used to study cell effects include culture of primary cells and cell lines, ELISA, RT-qPCR, immunofluorescence microscopy, reactive oxygen measurement, and transfection work.

The health effects of shipping-related particulate matter

Mathematical modelling suggests that particulate emissions from global shipping cause around 70,000 deaths per year, mainly in northern Europe and southern and eastern Asia, and likely many more instances of ill health.  However, such studies do not provide information on the biological effects of these particles, nor do they consider heavy industry at dock sites.  This project aims to analyse emissions from a variety of ship- and dock-related sources, and how they might exert their effects on the airways.  This is important because busy port cities often have poor air quality, so there is a need to understand which sources are most important in terms of the health effects of poor air quality, and also the manner in which health might be affected.

Future work will use source apportionment techniques to understand the relative contribution to overall air pollution of a range of pollution sources in port cities, and how this varies at specific sites depending on a range of different factors.

Collaborators: Prof Gavin Foster, Prof Damon Teagle, Prof Martin Palmer (Ocean and Earth Science, Southampton); Prof Donna Davies (Faculty of Medicine, Southampton); Dr Prashant Kumar (University of Surrey); Prof Terry Tetley (Imperial College, London).

Transcriptomic studies into cellular responses to particulate matter

Characterisation of particle toxicity frequently examines established endpoints in order to determine the relative toxicities of various types of particles.  However, this excludes other endpoints which may be just as important in understanding the effects of, and responses to, particles, as well as the mechanisms by which these occur.  Hypothesis-free ‘omics analysis allows screening of the entire cellular complement of a range of molecular classes in order to better understand the often subtle changes which are occurring, and how they interrelate in order to change the behaviour of the cell.  In this work, transcriptomic analysis by RNAseq is used to better understand the responses of cells to various particles at the RNA level, and may uncover perturbations in cellular processes and pathways not previously linked to pollution exposure. 

Collaborators: Dr Christopher Woelk, Prof Donna Davies (Faculty of Medicine, Southampton).

The Role of Airborne Particulate Matter in Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis

Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is a chronic, progressive fibrotic lung disease with a median survival time from diagnosis of 2-4 years, but of unknown cause.  Previous studies have suggested an association between exposure to airborne particulate matter exposure and IPF, but there is no understanding of the mechanisms which might be involved in any effect, and the components of particulate matter which might be important in this.  This project focuses on the epithelial cells lining the alveoli, the way in which they respond to metal exposure, and how these metals might induce fibrosis in the lungs.

Collaborators: Dr Mark Jones, Dr Franco Conforti, Dr Yihua Wang, Prof Donna Davies

Dr Loxham’s current research is supported by a Future Leader Fellowship from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and a Senior Research Fellowship form the NIHR Southampton Biomedical Research Centre.  He has also received support from the Southampton Marine and Maritime Institute (SMMI), Medical Research Council (MRC), Academy of Medical Sciences (AMS), and Asthma, Allergy and Inflammation Research (AAIR) Charity.

PhD supervision

Start year:

2017: Natasha Easton (with Prof Gavin Foster [OES], Prof Simon Cox and Dr Steven Ossont [Engineering])

2017: Florentin Bulot (with Prof Gavin Foster [OES], Prof Simon Cox and Dr Steven Ossont [Engineering])

2018: Dawn Cooper (with Dr Emily Swindle and Prof Donna Davies [FOM], and Prof Damon Teagle [OES])

2019: James Parkin (with Dr Richard Cook and Prof Ian Williams [FEPS], and Prof Martin Palmer [OES])

Research group

Clinical and Experimental Sciences

Reviewer for several journals in the fields of air pollution, cell biology, respiratory biology, and toxicology, including: Environmental Science & Technology, Science of the Total Environment, Environmental Pollution, Chemosphere, Clinical and Experimental Allergy, Respirology, Nanotoxicology

External Advisory Board: Co-opted member of subcommittee of the Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollution (COMEAP), preparing report for Transport for London on potential health effects of air pollution on the London Underground (2017-2019)





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MSc Allergy: Lecture on viral exacerbations of asthma

MSci Natural Sciences: Lectures on the health effects of particulate matter and shipping emissions

Dr Matthew Loxham
Faculty of Medicine, Room AB215, Mailpoint 801, South Academic Block, University Hospital Southampton, Tremona Road, Southampton, SO16 6YD

Room Number : SGH/LF5A/MP888

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