Institute for Regeneration and Repair

CMVM Inaugural lectures: Skin Showcase

IRR's Richard Weller among three CMVM researchers to give inaugural lectures in the Skin showcase event

Alongside Professor Sarah Brown and Professor Liz Patton, Professor Richard Weller of IRR gave his inaugural lecture to an audience of 180 plus people on Thursday the 16th of May.

three professors in academic robes stand around a pop up banner that says "inaugural lectures"
Richard Weller, Liz Patton and Sara Brown

The talks made up the Skin showcase; each professor giving an engaging 25 minute talk on their research, all connected to the theme of skin.

Sarah Brown gave an introduction and overview to the skin. Despite being a professor within the University for a number of years, she is giving an inaugural lecture in her new role as Grant Chair of Dermatology – the first woman in the role in almost 80 years.

Liz Patton’s talk covered her career and some of her research into skin cancer, using zebrafish as a model to identify genes, environmental conditions, and potential treatments for melanoma.

An audience looking at a projector screen showing an old photograph of a professor on a boat using a sextant
Richard Weller gives his talk

Richard Weller talked of his serendipitous career, often being in the right place at the right time, working on sunlight’s impact on the body. Self-admittedly not the most studious medical student, Weller completed his undergraduate degree in London, before travelling across the world to gain further training, both medical and research, in Australia, Germany, and the USA. In 1996 Weller was the first to describe nitric oxide (NO) production on the skin surface. NO is a substance known to dilate blood vessels and regulate blood pressure, among other functions. Weller’s work in the following years showed that exposure to UV releases NO into the blood from the skin, then having systemic effects on the body, including lowering blood pressure; exposure to UV can lower blood pressure.

His research also takes into account the role of skin colour in the effects of UV on the body. Pale skinned people need little exposure to UV for the positive effects, dark skinned people need considerably more for the same result in NO release. This is of particular interest as conditions relating to high blood pressure are generally more common in darker skinned populations.

Along with colleagues in the field, Weller’s research has contributed to a reconsideration of sunlight exposure guidance in Australia, the UK and other parts of Europe.

Owing to the unique circumstances of the spread and distribution of COVID-19, Weller’s team was able to show that higher levels of UVA (independent of vitamin D) exposure correlates with lower rates of COVID death, which has important public health implications and suggests that something about UV exposure may be linked to virus resistance.

Weller is also an Honorary Consultant Dermatologist, seeing and treating patients with a particular interest in eczema and medical dermatology.

He is a supporter of public engagement and you can see his TED Talk about his UV research here:

Could the sun be good for your heart?

The College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine is continuing its series of Inaugural Lectures, keep an eye on their events page for details about upcoming events

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