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Professor Melinda Duer

Portrait of mjd13

What we do...

We investigate the underlying chemical changes in the tissue of blood vessels that cause hardening or ‘calcification’ of arteries and veins as we age, which can lead to heart disease and stroke. Working with King’s College, we’ve discovered that an important biopolymer involved in new bone formation can contribute to these blockages. We’ve licensed this information to Cycle Pharmaceuticals for development into possible treatments for vascular disease.

We are funded by... 

The British Heart Foundation and Cycle Pharmaceuticals.

Our research

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.


In situ characterization of advanced glycation end products (AGEs) in collagen and model extracellular matrix by solid state NMR
R Li, R Rajan, WCV Wong, DG Reid, MJ Duer, VJ Somovilla, N Martinez-Saez, GJL Bernardes, R Hayward, CM Shanahan
– Chemical communications (Cambridge, England)
Solid state NMR of isotope labelled murine fur: a powerful tool to study atomic level keratin structure and treatment effects
WCV Wong, A Narkevicius, WY Chow, DG Reid, R Rajan, RA Brooks, M Green, MJ Duer
– Journal of Biomolecular NMR
Nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy fingerprinting of tissues allows detailed analysis of glycation reactions
MJ Duer, R Rajan, WY Chow, DG Reid, KH Muller, JN Skepper, CM Shanahan, RA Brooks
Tuning hardness in calcite by incorporation of amino acids
Y-Y Kim, JD Carloni, B Demarchi, D Sparks, DG Reid, ME Kunitake, CC Tang, MJ Duer, CL Freeman, B Pokroy, K Penkman, JH Harding, LA Estroff, SP Baker, FC Meldrum
– Nature materials
Preparation of highly and generally enriched mammalian tissues for solid state NMR
VWC Wong, DG Reid, WY Chow, R Rajan, M Green, RA Brooks, MJ Duer
– Journal of Biomolecular NMR
Solid state NMR of salivary calculi: Proline-rich salivary proteins, citrate, polysaccharides, lipids, and organic-mineral interactions
Y Li, DG Reid, D Bazin, M Daudon, MJ Duer
– Comptes Rendus Chimie
The contribution of solid-state NMR spectroscopy to understanding biomineralization: atomic and molecular structure of bone.
MJ Duer
– Journal of Magnetic Resonance
Hydroxyproline Ring Pucker Causes Frustration of Helix Parameters in the Collagen Triple Helix
WY Chow, D Bihan, CJ Forman, DA Slatter, DG Reid, DJ Wales, RW Farndale, MJ Duer
– Scientific reports
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, GJL Bernardes
– Chemical communications (Cambridge, England)
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
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Research Group

Research Interest Groups

Telephone number

01223 763934 (shared)

Email address