University of Manchester
Ann is a member of the Division of Cardiovascular Sciences at The University of Manchester. She graduated with a degree in Biochemistry from Manchester and then completed a PhD under the supervision of Professor Michael Grant at the University. Her post-doctoral studies took her to the Paterson Institute for Cancer Research. She was then awarded a Wellcome Trust Junior Research Fellowship and joined the Wellcome Trust Centre for Cell-Matrix Research in 1993. Ann was appointed a Lecturer in the Faculty of Medical and Human Sciences in 1996, Senior Lecturer in 2000, Reader in 2007 and Professor of Vascular Cell Biology in 2010.
The primary focus of Ann's reserach is to elucidate the molecular and cellular mechanisms regulating pathological vascular calcification, which is highly correlated with increased morbidity and mortality in patents with atherosclerosis, diabetes and end-stage renal disease. Her group was the first to demonstrate that vascular pericytes may be involved in this process as she demonstrated that these cells can differentiate along several lineages including osteogenic, chondrogenic and adipogenic in response to specific stimuli. She has now confirmed that vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMC) can also undergo osteogenic differentiation and deposit a mineralised matrix. Using both pericytes and vascular smooth muscle cells, she has demonstrated that the Wnt- and TGFbeta-signaling pathways are master controllers of differentiation and that they also contribute to the pathogenesis of vascular calcification. In addition, she has discovered other novel inhibitors of vascular calcification including TSG-6, CaR, Axl and its ligand, Gas6 and HtrA1 (a serine protease with the ability to regulate TGFbeta signalling). Therefore, current research aims to determine the mechanisms by which these signaling pathways regulate pericyte and VSMC differentiation and vascular calcification. Ultimately, these studies should enable us to develop approaches to (a) prevent pathological calcification, and (b) manipulate cells along VSMC lineages for therapeutic tissue regeneration.