Dr Patricia Thomas BSc (hons), MRes, PhD

Patricia Thomas

Institute of Metabolism and Systems Research
MRC Research Fellow

Contact details

University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

Patricia is an MRC Skills Development Fellow based in the Institute of Metabolism and Systems Research (IMSR). Her research uses cutting-edge experimental and computational research methods to investigate the mechanisms underpinning obesity-induced type 2 diabetes (T2D). She is particularly interested in understanding how intracellular fatty acid storage, mobilisation, and metabolism cause insulin-producing pancreatic beta cells to become dysfunctional and die.

Part of the Centre for Systems, Modelling and Quantitative Biomedicine

Centre Twitter handle - https://twitter.com/SMQB_UoB


  • PhD in Medical Studies, University of Exeter, 2019
  • Masters by Research (MRes) in Cellular and Molecular Physiology, University of Liverpool, 2015
  • Bachelor of Sciences (BSc) with honours in Nutrition and Dietetics, University of Chester and NHS North West, 2014 


Patricia completed her BSc (hons) in Nutrition and Dietetics, before undertaking a Masters by Research (MRes) where she explored the changes in hypothalamic feeding networks in hypermetabolic states. Patricia then completed her doctoral studies in 2019 under the supervision of Professor Noel Morgan at the University of Exeter, characterising the role of long-chain fatty acids in pancreatic beta-cell death and dysfunction in type 2 diabetes. During her PhD, Patricia undertook a 6-month ISSF secondment at the Centre for Biomedical Modelling and Analysis at the University of Exeter to learn bioinformatics and machine learning. In 2019, Patricia secured an independent MRC-funded Skills Development fellowship to further her knowledge of quantitative research methods. Patricia’s MRC fellowship uses a combined experimental-bioinformatics approach to determine the mechanism underpinning obesity-induced type 2 diabetes (T2D). She aims to translate this work into therapies which slow or potentially halt the progression of type 2 diabetes and other obesity-related diseases.


  • BSc Biomedical Sciences (Yr3) - small group teaching
  • BMedSci Clinical Sciences (Intercalation) programme – small group teaching
  • MBChB (Yr1) – small group teaching

Postgraduate supervision

  • 1x MRes student
  • Currently supervising 1x MSci by Research student


Patricia uses a multidisciplinary approach (including molecular biology, microscopy, bioinformatics and machine learning) to determine the role of fatty acids in the pathophysiology of obesity-related disease, particularly type 2 diabetes.

A reduction in functional pancreatic beta cell mass is a hallmark feature of type 2 diabetes. In vitro studies with rodent beta cells suggest that individual free fatty acids can exert differential effects such that long-chain saturated fatty acids (LC-SFA) promote toxicity (lipotoxicity) while their monounsaturated counterparts are more benign. This is important if also true in humans because patients with type 2 diabetes often display elevated circulating LC-SFA. Patricia’s research uses human pancreatic beta cells to determine whether chronic LC-SFA exposure is also detrimental to human beta cells. This includes addressing questions concerning how excess LC-SFA are stored, mobilised, and metabolised by beta cells and whether these processes contribute towards their failure.

Alongside fatty acids, Patricia is also interested in the effect of the tryptophan derivative, indole, on pancreatic beta cell function. Currently, Patricia’s research is funded by the MRC and Wellcome Trust.

Research Groups and Centres

Other activities

  • Data analyst, University of Michigan, USA (2018)
  • ISSF Secondee at the Centre of Biomedical Modelling and Analysis, University of Exeter (2017-2018)
  • Technical advisor for Agilent Technologies, Boston, USA: Software development and data analytics of mitochondrial bioenergetics data (2017-2018)


Thomas P, Arden C, Corcoran J, Hacker C, Welters HJ, Morgan NG. Differential routing and disposition of long-chain saturated fatty acids in rodent vs human beta cells. In review Nutrition and Diabetes.

Campion R, Bloxam L, Brownridge P, Pentland DR, Thomas P, Gourlay CW, Eyers CE, Barclay JW, Morgan A. Proteomic analysis of dietary restriction in yeast a role for Hsp26 in lifespan extension. Biochemical Journal 2021: doi.org/10.1042/BCJ20210432 (https://portlandpress.com/biochemj/article/doi/10.1042/BCJ20210432/229950/Proteomic-analysis-of-dietary-restriction-in-yeast)

Namboori SC, Thomas P, Ames R, Hawkins S, Garrett LO, Willis CRG, Rosa A, Stanton LW, Bhinge A. Single cell transcriptomics identifies master regulators of neurodegeneration in SOD1 ALS iPSC-derived motor neurons. In press Stem Cell Reports 2021.

Thomas P, Leslie AK, Welters HJ, Morgan NG. Long-chain saturated fatty acid species are not toxic to human pancreatic β-cells and may offer protection against pro-inflammatory cytokine induced β-cell death. Nutrition and Metabolism 2021: 18:9. (https://nutritionandmetabolism.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12986-021-00541-8)

Dhayal S, Zummo FP, Anderson MW, Thomas P, Arden C, Morgan NG. Differential effects of saturated and unsaturated fatty acids on autophagy in pancreatic β-cells. Journal of Molecular Endocrinology 2019: 63: 285-296 (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31614336/)

Homes AP, Wong SQ, Pulix M, Johnson K, Horton NS, Thomas P, de Magalhães, Plagge A. Reductions in hypothalamic Gfap expression, glial cells and α-tanycytes in lean and hypermetabolic Gnasxl-deficient mice. Molecular Brain 2016: 9:39. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4832494/)

Thomas P. North Europe Young Diabetologists (NEYD) Annual Meeting. British Journal of Diabetes 2017: 17:3. (https://bjd-abcd.com/index.php/bjd/article/view/288)

View all publications in research portal