Skip to main navigationSkip to main content
The University of Southampton
(023) 8120 5164

Dr Christopher Torrens BSc (Hons), PhD

Associate Professor in Physiology

Dr Christopher Torrens's photo

Dr Christopher Torrens is Associate Professor in Physiology within Medicine at the University of Southampton.

Dr Torrens received his BSc in Biological Sciences with Honours in Physiology from Glasgow Caledonian University before undertaking a PhD at the newly established FOAD centre, within the School of Medicine at the University of Southampton.

His PhD work demonstrated the maternal nutrient restriction in pregnancy lead to endothelial dysfunction in the offspring, which was apparent in their subsequent pregnancy and was transmitted to the second generation.

Following the completion of his PhD Dr Torrens remained in Southampton to continue this work on a BHF funded project before spending a short period at the Liggins Institute, University of Auckland as a Visiting Research Fellow. Shortly after returning to Southampton, Dr Torrens was appointed as a lecturer in physiology in 2006. 


BSc (Hons), Biological Sciences, Glasgow Caledonian University, 2000
PhD, University of Southampton, 2004
PG Cert, University of Southampton, 2008

Appointments held

Postdoctoral Research Associate, University of Southampton. 2004 – 2006
Visiting Research Fellow, Liggins Institute, University of Auckland. 2006
Lecturer in Physiology, University of Southampton. 2006 – 2013
Senior Lecturer in Physiology, University of Southampton. 2013 – 2015
Associate Professor in Physiology, University of Southampton, 2015 - present

Research interests

Developmental Origins of Endothelial Dysfunction:

The vascular endothelium plays an important role in maintaining cardiovascular homeostasis through the release of factors such as nitric oxide (NO). The importance of a healthy endothelium is seen in cardiovascular and metabolic diseases, where endothelial dysfunction is a common finding. Dysfunction of the endothelium is also a common finding in children who are small at birth and multiple animal models of poor maternal environment. Our group is interested in the pathways through which maternal environment can influences long-term changes in the endothelium of the offspring. Central to this is the role of NO and the influence of oxidative stress. Currently there are three main focuses to this work

i) With obesity now a growing public health concern there is an increasing number of young women of childbearing age who are obese. We are interested in the influence of both pre- and post-natal high fat on the priming of both macro- and microvascular disease

ii) The influence of a maternal diet high in fat is evident from the above projects, but what is less clear is the influence of types of fats. Diets rich in saturated or hydrogenated fats have been shown to increase cardiovascular risk, while diets rich in n-3 polyunsaturated fats (fish oils) have been suggested to be cardioprotective. We are investigating whether the type and amount of fat eaten during pregnancy influences cardiovascular risk in the offspring.

iii) Cardiovascular disease is a major cause of morbidity and mortality throughout the world and dysfunction of the endothelium is an important component in the aetiology of this disease. Our research has shown a clear role for early environmental factors to prime for the risk of future disease, but such developmental plasticity also offers a unique window for early positive interventions. One such intervention is statins. Statins are the drug of choice for treatment of cardiovascular disease; however their effectiveness is greater than their cholesterol lowering capabilities suggesting their efficacy is due to one or more pleiotropic effects. We are interested in identifying some of these pleiotropic actions linked to the positive actions of statins.

Developmental Origins of Lung Disease:

In addition to the well documented effects of disordered growth in utero on cardiometabolic disease, there is a growing body of evidence to suggest that chronic respiratory diseases have their origins in the developmental period. Asthma has been linked epidemiologically with markers of fetal growth such as anthropometric measurements at birth. Reduced fetal growth and duration of gestation are associated with impaired lung development in children, while airway function at birth is also a significant predictor of asthma, adult lung function, and possibly COPD. Using our existing models of developmental programming we are investigating the effects of maternal environment on lung development and have shown bronchial hyperresponsiveness, structural changes and persistent alterations in gene and miRNA expression in response to maternal protein restriction.

Novel Mediators of Bronchoconstriction and -dilation in Human Airways

The immediate cause of asthma morbidity and mortality is acute bronchial smooth muscle constriction and the reversal of this is the mainstay of asthma therapy. With recent evidence suggesting the importance of bronchoconstriction in airway remodelling and a wealth of novel G-protein coupled receptor targets largely unexplored in the human airways, we are interested in the possible bronchodilator capacity of these novel receptors with a view to uncovering potential new therapeutic targets.

Research group

Human Development and Health

Affiliate research group

Human Development and Physiology

Postgraduate student supervision

Completed PhD Students

2010 Matthew J.J. Rose-Zerilli (PhD)
2012 Shelley Davis (PhD)
2013 Piia H.M. Keskivali-Bond (PhD)
2015 Nicola Irvine (PhD)
2015 Jessica Rajaram (PhD)
2015 Melanie Jannaway (PhD)
2017 Oliver Harrison (MD)


Rob Adam (MD)
Suresh Giritharan (MD)
Eleni Palaiologou (PhD)

Faculty of Medicine

Subject Lead for Physiology
HDH Executive Group
HDH Education Committee (chair)

National and International responsibilities

Academic Editor – PloS one

Fellow of The Physiological Society
Member of British Pharmacological Society
Fellow of the Higher Education Academy

External examiner at University of Manchester (2014 - 2018)

Sort via:TypeorYear


Book Chapters


Delivers lectures, tutorials and practicals across all BM Programmes
Subject lead for Physiology
BM Year 2 lead
MEDI 2042 (Renal Module) Deputy Coordinator
Personal Tutor
AI Officer
PGR Special Considerations Committee Member

Dr Christopher Torrens
Faculty of Medicine, University of Southampton, Building 85, Life Sciences Building, Highfield Campus, Southampton, SO171BJ

Room Number: SGH/DA10/MP887

Facsimile: (023) 8120 4221

Share this profile Share this on Facebook Share this on Twitter Share this on Weibo
Privacy Settings