Gastroenterology and Liver Research Group

Our aim is to understand the molecular mechanisms regulating liver inflammation, fibrosis, cirrhosis and cancer as well as using transgenic animals to model human liver disease with a view to developing novel therapeutic agents as well as new tools for diagnostic investigations.

The current focus of the research group is to further understand the role of the glycoprotein CD147 (extracellular matrix metalloproteinase inducer; EMMPRIN) in mediating basic and fundamental aspects of tissue inflammatory responses and carcinogenesis. Our group has made the fundamental discovery that CD147 mediates a process of inflammatory cell aggregation, which determines the extent of liver injury. Based on this novel discovery we found that if CD147 is blocked in vivo a marked reduction in liver injury was seen in mouse models of liver disease, which has the potential to lead to new therapeutic agents.

Clinical research undertaken by his group examines the use of probiotics to change the composition of the gut flora, treatment of muscle cramps, the use biomarker predictors of liver injury and nutritional interventions in end stage liver disease.

Group Leader:
Professor Nicholas Shackel


Professor Shackel is Professor of Medicine at UNSW and Liverpool Hospital. He is a UNSW Academic and a Senior Clinician within the Gastroenterology Department at Liverpool Hospital and leads the Gastroenterology and Liver Research Group within the Ingham Institute for Applied Research.

Professor Shackel is internationally acknowledged for his pioneering of functional genomics methods to study human liver disease. His significant novel findings include:

1. Identification of a Th1 immune phenotype in Hepatitis C virus (HCV)-associated liver injury

2. Identification of increased WNT pathway gene expression in biliary liver disease

3. Identification of the collagen receptor, discoidin domain receptor 1 (DDR1), on human hepatocytes and its increased expression in human cirrhosis

4. Identification of increased arginine-glutamic acid repeat (RERE) and trans-alternate splicing in HCV cirrhosis

5. Identification of EMMPRIN (extracellular matrix metalloproteinase inducer) in human cirrhosis

6. The initial description of the Hedgehog pathway in human liver disease

Professor Shackels’ research has been presented at National and International meetings including Singapore (the Asia Pacific Association for the Study of the Liver) and the USA (American Association for the Study Liver Disease). Most recently he was invited to give the Systems Biology plenary talk in the post-graduate workshop at the American Association for the Study Liver Disease in Boston, 2012.