Stela McLachlan

Research Fellow (Epidemiology)


Dr Stela McLachlan is a research fellow at the Usher Institute of Population Health Sciences and Informatics with an interest in the genetics of iron and red blood cells, and a strong background in data-driven research and collaborative work.


2003                      DVM, Veterinary Medicine;

                               University of Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina


2007                      PhD, Veterinary Sciences

                                 Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, Germany

Research summary

My initial focus is on identification of genes/proteins that have an effect on iron metabolism both in humans and in mice. Iron is essential for life; it is vital for many processes in the organism, most importantly transport of oxygen. However, iron is toxic in excess and, since there is no regulated mechanism of iron excretion, iron homeostasis in mammals is tightly regulated, with levels of iron controlled by many different genes and proteins. Disturbances of iron homeostasis have long been associated with specific haematological diseases; however, its involvement in a wider range of chronic human diseases is less clear. I am currently looking for opportunities to expand my research to look at the role iron genes/proteins play in the development of chronic disease, using ‘big data’ and novel methodological approach of phenotype imputation using related red blood cell traits, developed by colleagues at University of California, Los Angeles. Understanding the associations between iron and chronic disease, and distinguishing between causal risk factors of disease and non-causal biomarkers is of utmost importance with applications in potential drug target discovery and disease risk stratification.

Knowledge exchange

I have spent 3 years as a postdoc at University of California, Berkeley working on genome-wide association study of genetic loci associated with iron deficiency in humans and iron metabolism in inbred mouse strains using novel "in silico" QTL mapping approach. From 2011, I have worked as data manager and research fellow at the Usher Institute, University of Edinburgh managing Edinburgh-based cohorts as part of a wider UK collaboration looking at the population genomics of cardiometabolic traits (University College London Edinburgh Bristol (UCLEB) consortium) and running genome-wide association study of red blood cell traits and iron metabolism. At the same time I have been employed as a consultant on “An integrated molecular approach to understand variation in iron metabolism” study, first by University of California, Berkeley and later on by University of Florida, Gainesville.