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Dr Melinda Duer

Portrait of mjd13

The tissues in our bodies are remarkable materials for many reasons, not least of all because they have widely different functions on different lengthscales.  The bulk of our tissues is made up of the extracellular matrix.  On an atomic and nanoscopic lengthscale, the extracellular matrix provides a communication systems between the cells in the tissue; on a microscopic lengthscale, it provides the scaffold that supports those cells, i.e. provides a “home” for the tissue’s cells; and at the macroscopic lengthscale, the extracellular matrix is the material which forms the structures in our organs, our blood vessels, bones, tendons, intestines, etc.  Understanding how all these functions can arise in a single material is not only essential for understanding the biology of tissues, it can give us clues on how to design new smart materials ourselves.

Our main areas of interest currently are understanding the atomic structures of tissues, in particular musculoskeletal tissues such as bone and cartilage, and vascular tissue, with the aims of understanding both physiological and pathological processes in terms of the molecular structures actually involved in processes such as development of collagenous tissues, bone mineralization and the changes in tissues associated with ageing.  The pathological processes we are particularly (but not exclusively) interested in are vascular and kidney calcification, osteoarthritis and osteoporosis. 

All our projects are highly interdisciplinary and we collaborate with a wide variety of biologists, medics and clinicians as well as theoretical chemists and physicists, materials sceintists and engineers; the unifying feature is the application of physical chemistry principles in biology and medicine. The main structural characterization technique we use to study molecular structure in tissues is solid-state nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy.  We use 2D and 3D 13C and 15N NMR to study molecular structure in native tissues and in in vitro tissues.  We also apply the relatively new methodology of NMR crystallography, a combination of NMR, powder X-ray diffraction and first principles calculations, to deduce crystal structures of materials related to those of native tissues, for instance the mineral component of bone.

Please see our group website for more details of our projects and funding.


Collagen labelling with an azide-proline chemical reporter in live cells.
B Amgarten, R Rajan, N Martínez-Sáez, BL Oliveira, IS Albuquerque, RA Brooks, DG Reid, MJ Duer, GJ Bernardes – Chemical communications (Cambridge, England) (2014) 51, 5250
NMR Spectroscopy of Native and in Vitro Tissues Implicates PolyADP Ribose in Biomineralization
WY Chow, R Rajan, KH Muller, DG Reid, JN Skepper, WC Wong, RA Brooks, M Green, D Bihan, RW Farndale, DA Slatter, CM Shanahan, MJ Duer – Science (2014) 344, 742
Citrate bridges between mineral platelets in bone.
E Davies, KH Müller, WC Wong, CJ Pickard, DG Reid, JN Skepper, MJ Duer – Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (2014) 111, E1354
A new glycat on product 'norpronyl-lysine,' and direct characterization of cross linking and other glycat on adducts: NMR of model compounds and collagen
PT Bullock, DG Reid, WY Chow, WP Lau, MJ Duer – Bioscience reports (2014) 34, 81
Dehydration and crystallization of amorphous calcium carbonate in solution and in air
J Ihli, WC Wong, EH Noel, YY Kim, AN Kulak, HK Christenson, MJ Duer, FC Meldrum – Nature Communications (2014) 5, 3169
The effect of particle agglomeration on the formation of a surface-connected compartment induced by hydroxyapatite nanoparticles inhuman monocyte-derived macrophages
KH Müller, M Motskin, AJ Philpott, AF Routh, CM Shanahan, MJ Duer, JN Skepper – Biomaterials (2014) 35, 1074
The effect of particle agglomeration on the formation of a surface-connected compartment induced by hydroxyapatite nanoparticles in human monocyte-derived macrophages.
KH Müller, M Motskin, AJ Philpott, AF Routh, CM Shanahan, MJ Duer, JN Skepper – Biomaterials (2014) 35, 1074
Citrate Occurs Widely in Healthy and Pathological Apatitic Biomineral: Mineralized Articular Cartilage, and Intimal Atherosclerotic Plaque and Apatitic Kidney Stones
DG Reid, MJ Duer, GE Jackson, RC Murray, AL Rodgers, CM Shanahan – Calcified tissue international (2013) 93, 1
The curious case of (caffeine)·(benzoic acid): how heteronuclear seeding allowed the formation of an elusive cocrystal
D-K Bučar, GM Day, I Halasz, GGZ Zhang, JRG Sander, DG Reid, LR Macgillivray, MJ Duer, W Jones – Chemical Science (2013) 4, 4417
Applications of NMR Crystallography to Problems in Biomineralization: Refinement of the Crystal Structure and 31 P Solid-State NMR Spectral Assignment of Octacalcium Phosphate
E Davies, MJ Duer, SE Ashbrook, JM Griffin – Journal of the American Chemical Society (2012) 134, 12508
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Research Group

Research Interest Groups

Telephone number

01223 763934 (shared)
01223 336483

Email address