Karen Chapman

Personal Chair of Molecular Endocrinology

  • Centre for Cardiovascular Science

Contact details



Queen's Medical Research Institute
47 Little France Crescent
Edinburgh BioQuarter

Post code
EH16 4TJ

Research summary

Karen Chapman: Glucocorticoid action Research in my lab is focussed on the actions of glucocorticoids - steroid hormones that play key roles in stress, inflammatory and other homeostatic responses, and developmentally, in maturing the fetus ready for life after birth.  


Developmental effects of glucocorticoids: fetal programming For over 50 years we have known that glucocorticoids are essential in late gestation for fetal lung maturation and life beyond birth: hence, potent synthetic glucocorticoids are administered to pregnant women at risk of preterm delivery. Whilst previously assumed to be completely safe, considerable evidence now suggests that excessive fetal exposure is not as harm-free as previously assumed. We discovered a role for endogenous glucocorticoid action in maturing the fetal heart. We are now investigating the mechanisms, including whether glucocorticoid action in the perinatal period determines cardiomyocyte endowment in adulthood. We are also testing the effects of precocious activation of glucocorticoid receptors upon fetal hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, heart function and survival.  

11beta-HSD1 in the immuno-modulatory and metabolic effects of glucocorticoids A key level of control over glucocorticoid action is their metabolism by the 11beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase (11beta-HSD) enzymes. Work from Edinburgh has established the important role played by 11beta-HSD1 in the immune-modulating, anti-inflammatory and metabolic effects of glucocorticoids. We are now focussing on novel aspects of 11beta-HSD1, including how it shapes immune and inflammatory responses via metabolic switches and its role in bile acid homeostasis.  

Research activities

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