Dr. Heather L Wilson BSc DPhil

Senior Lecturer

Department of Infection, Immunity & Cardiovascular DiseaseDr Heather Wilson
University of Sheffield
Medical School
Beech Hill Road
S10 2RX
Telephone: +44 (0)114 215 9560
Fax: +44 (0)114 271 1863
Email: h.l.wilson@sheffield.ac.uk


My research background has centred around a curiosity driven interest in cell signalling. This has taken me into research projects on calcium signalling (D.Phil., Univ. of Oxford) and P2X receptor-gated ion channels (post-doctoral research post, Biomedical Science, Univ. of Sheffield) to identifying P2X7 receptor interacting proteins involved in the secretion of the cytokine, interleukin-1beta that drives inflammation.

I am currently a lecturer within the Department of Infection, Immunity & Cardiovascular Disease, directing my research programme into the cell biology of inflammation, and linking this to understanding diseases such as atherosclerosis.

Research Interests:

My research interests link cellular mechanisms of inflammation to cardiovascular disease. An overarching question relates to how the immune response drives both atherogenesis and susceptibility to atherosclerotic plaque rupture, given the increased risk of myocardial infarction or stroke over the four weeks following exposure to systemic infections including pneumonia.

We have assessed the contribution of early pro-inflammatory signals at the arterial endothelium, by circulating monocytes and arterial wall macrophages. At the endothelium level we have studied the influence of shear stress on P2X receptor activity and the inflammatory response, as well as the role of up-regulated IL-1beta detected in human arterial endothelial cells with pathological atherosclerosis. We have a long-standing interest in understanding how the “leaderless” cytokine IL-1beta is secreted, in particular by human monocytes and how this is differentially regulated in monocyte subsets. We have studied the role of microvesicular IL-1beta secretion and assessed the delivery of microvesicles to the endothelium using live in vivo zebrafish models in addition to primary human cell co-culture models. More recently we have been investigating the role of arterial wall macrophage phenotypes in their cytokine responsiveness and lipid handling mechanisms.

Teaching Interests:

I am leader of the Cardiovascular Pathway within the MSc in Molecular Medicine course and also lead the “Vascular Cell Biology” module within this pathway and on the MRes course in Cardiovascular Medicine.

I lecture on the Cardiovascular Pharmacology module in the Biomedical Science undergraduate course, and on the Pharmacogenomics Module of the NHS sponsored MSc in Genomic Medicine.

I am a tutor to MSc students providing both Personal Development tutoring as well as supporting taught courses. I am Personal Academic Tutor to a cohort of Phase 1 medical students, and am Cluster leader, internal examiner and a committee board member to BMedSci medical students. I supervise PhD students, BMedSci students, MSc students in their full-time 5-month laboratory research projects and clinical training fellows.

Professional Activities:

  • Editorial advisory board member of the Inflammasome Journal.
  • Journal reviewer.
  • Member of the British Atherosclerosis Society and British Society of Immunology.
  • Co-organiser of Joint Sheffield-Manchester IL-1 Group.
  • Ethics reviewer.
  • Member of the Bateson Centre, University of Sheffield (formerly Centre for Developmental and Biomedical Genetics).

Current Projects:

  • Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council Project Grant. "Novel zebrafish approaches to investigate leaderless protein secretion in vivo."
  • British Heart Foundation Project Grant. "Mechanisms and consequences of in vivo targeting of IL-1 to the endothelium."
  • British Heart Foundation PhD studentship. "Regulation of the Endothelial P2X4/7 Receptor Axis.”
  • Heart Research UK. Clinical Training Fellowship (supervisor). "Neutrophil delivery of IL-1 as a mechanism of MI risk after lung infection."
  • A*Star Studentship. "Contribution of blood immune cell subtypes in inflammatory function and the development of cardiovascular disease."
  • Horizon 2020 European Commission. Marie Curie Innovative Training Network Programme Award. TRAIN ‘Tribbles Research and Innovation Network’ 2016-2021


For key publications see below. For a full list of publications click here.

Journal articles