Advisory Board

Professor Lorna Harries

Lorna Harries, Ph.D. is Professor of Molecular Genetics at the College of Medicine and Health, University of Exeter. Her current work focuses on the role of alternative messenger RNA processing and small RNA regulation of genes involved in ageing and common chronic disease.

With her work, Lorna shows and agrees: “Age should be just a number”.

Previously she worked at several institutions including the Biomedical Research Centre at the University of Dundee, the MRC Cell Mutation Unit at the University of Brighton, and the Institute of Biomedical and Clinical Sciences at the University of Exeter Medical School.

In 2006, she received the award of an RCUK fellowship and set up the ‘RNA-mediated mechanisms of Disease’ Group at the University of Exeter Medical School. She now still leads the team, now called Team RNA at Harries’ Lab. Their major research interest focuses on factors that influence gene expression and their impact on human disease. She is particularly interested in mRNA processing (mRNA splicing, differential polyadenylation) and how this may affect disease phenotype.

Lorna focuses on the discovery of novel drug targets for age-related disease. She is evaluating novel small molecule and genetic interventions for moderation of splicing regulators and patterns of alternative splicing for efficacy as future anti-degenerative drugs. Her group was the first to report dysregulation of splicing regulators in association with ageing and longevity in human populations, in human models of cellular ageing, and in animal models.

Read Human aging is characterized by focused changes in gene expression and deregulation of alternative splicing, Changes in splicing factor expression are associated with advancing age in man, and Changes in the expression of splicing factor transcripts and variations in alternative splicing are associated with lifespan in mice and humans.

They were also the first group to show that cellular senescence was reversible in these systems by targeting splicing regulation in multiple cell types and published in 2017 Small molecule modulation of splicing factor expression is associated with rescue from cellular senescence. This was followed by Mitochondria-targeted hydrogen sulfide attenuates endothelial senescence by selective induction of splicing factors HNRNPD and SRSF2 in 2018, and in 2019 by FOXO1 and ETV6 genes may represent novel regulators of splicing factor expression in cellular senescence.

They are taking an interdisciplinary approach which ranges from molecular epidemiology in human populations, to detailed molecular dissection of specific pathways in cellular models. Their discoveries pinpoint dysregulation of alternative splicing as a new ‘hallmark of ageing’; and a novel driver of cellular ageing.

She has written over 90 peer-reviewed articles and was awarded the Diabetes UK RD Lawrence Prize Lectureship in 2011. She is coordinator of the annual UEMS ‘Men in White’ school outreach with Dr. John Chilton. This event brings in year 9 students from schools stretching from South Devon to North Somerset and gives them hands-on experience of work in a research laboratory. Lorna is a STEMnet ambassador and also an Exeter Catalyst Champion for Public Engagement.

Lorna earned her Ph.D. in November 1994 and her Bachelor’s Degree of Science in 1991, both in Molecular Genetics from the University College London where she graduated with First Class honors.

Read circRNAs expressed in human peripheral blood are associated with human aging phenotypes, cellular senescence and mouse lifespan. Read the Scientist Spotlight: Lorna Harries, PhD about Gene Regulation In Age Related Disease at ThermoFisher, Scientific.

Watch Lorna talk about her research on regulation and expression of genes in ageing and diabetes. Listen to the ideaXme podcast “RNA – Essential For All Human Life: Therapies”.

Read Can a single pill reverse ageing? British scientists target failing ‘zombie cells’ to counter diseases which blight growing old in Dailymail Online. Read Key aspects of human cell aging reversed by new compounds at EurekaAlert! Read Exeter Uni professor develops alternative method to animal testing. Read Ageing in human cells successfully reversed in the lab.

Visit her CMH work page, LinkedIn profile, her Team RNA page, ResearchGate profile, and Google Scholar page. Follow her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.