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Personal profile

Research interests

Biochemistry and biomechanics of skeletal disease

My overall research theme is in the physiology, pathology, regeneration and repair of musculoskeletal and connective tissues. This includes research in:

  • Regenerative medicine, tissue engineering and stem cell biology
  • Biomechanics
  • Diet and health
  • Bone and joint disease
  • Mechanisms of discogenic back pain
  • Tissue repair
  • Collagen biochemistry
  • Colitis
  • Animal health and welfare

Research findings

Bone and joint disease: In a recent study we have found that omega-3 fatty acid substantially and significantly reduced the severity of osteoarthritis in a spontaneous disease model, as well as reducing biochemical and metabolic indicators of disease. This was the first (and remains the only) report of any drug or nutraceutical shown to prevent osteoarthritis by influencing the pathological process in spontaneous disease (as against merely affecting symptoms) . Properly followed up, these findings are likely to represent an intervention that could substantially lower the incidence and severity of new cases of human osteoarthritis.

Regenerative medicine: We have recently developed the first ever "stem cell bandage" shown to improve articular cartilage and meniscus repair in the laboratory. This is currently in phase1/2 human clinical trial.

Diet, animal welfare and health: More than three out of five of the EUs 200 million free range laying hens suffer keel bone breakage during their lives. We have recently shown that omega-3 fatty acid supplemented diets can reduce this rate by over 40%, which would potentially represent 80 million fewer hens in the EU suffering this painful condition, with clear welfare and economic benefits. 

Mechanisms of pain in intervertebral discs: Back pain is a major health problem in the UK, affecting over two thirds of the population at some stage in their lives. In a recent published study, we have demonstrated how a combination of reduced pressure within the disc, and a change in the extracellular matrix composition is linked to the in-growth of nerves into degenerate discs, which is the cause of the most severe and chronic forms of backpain.

Tissue repair and wound healing: With around 6 million sufferers in the US and 500,000 in the UK, chronic wounds is one of the major health problems affecting the ageing population. One of the principle mechanisms of impaired healing in chronic wounds is the presence of excesive tissue degrading enzymes. In studies performed using surrogate wound fluids, we were able to demonstrate that technologically advanced superabsorbant gel based wound dressings were able to deplete tissue degrading enzymes, and prevent their ability to degrade extracellular matix components. 

Colitis: Fibrosis is a serious consequence of Crohn’s disease, which without surgical resection may be life threatening. In a recently published paper, we have revealed a previously unidentified mechanism which drives fibrosis in this disease.

Tissue repair and wound healing: It has long been believed that there is a strong relationship between disease susceptibility and state of mind. Diebetes effect nearly 300 million adults worldwide, and up to 15% of these will develop foot ulcers. In recent studies we have demonstrated that depression and the ability to cope are linked to the rate of healing in diabetic foot ulcers, revealing a novel disease mechanism and the potential for therapy.


Further information about Dr John Tarlton can be found here.

External positions

External Examiner, University of Liverpool, Department of Musculoskeletal Biology, Institute of Ageing and Chronic Disease

1 Apr 201531 Mar 2020

Pool Committee panel member, BBSRC

1 Jan 201431 Dec 2019

Panel Member Fellowship Committee, Versus Arthritis

1 Sep 201331 Jan 2017

Structured keywords and research groupings

  • WUNhealth


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