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Dr Gisela Helfer

Associate Professor

Faculty/Dept/School School of Chemistry and Bioscience
(Faculty of Life Sciences)
Telephone +441274 232149


Dr Gisela Helfer studied Biology and Zoology at the University of Salzburg, Austria. During her Master’s studies at the University of Salzburg, she investigated the neurobiology of learning and imprinting behaviour of Japanese quail chicks. After graduating, she moved to the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Andechs, Germany, where she initially worked on the hippocampal formation of migratory birds with Prof Ebo Gwinner and later on circadian rhythms in vertebrates. Here, Gisela found her love for science in general and chronobiology (the study of biological rhythms) in particular. From Andechs, she started her northwards journey, first to do a PhD at the University of Birmingham (UK) to work on circadian rhythms in birds and then to train as a postdoctoral fellow at the Rowett Institute of Nutrition and Health at the University of Aberdeen (UK) with Prof Peter Morgan. At the Rowett Institute, she established novel concepts in molecular mechanisms and pathways regulating seasonal physiology. By combining in vivo studies with molecular biology including neuron-targeted viral gene delivery, she characterised and identified for the first-time pathways in the hypothalamus that control energy homeostasis and appetite regulation. Her work discovered a new role for Vitamin A in the brain. Downstream of Vitamin A signalling she identified a novel neuroendocrine role for the adipokine chemerin in cellular remodelling and neuronal plasticity within the hypothalamus. Six years of postdocing, three moves and two children later, she joined the University of Bradford, where she is now an Associate Professor in Physiology and Metabolism. In 2015, Gisela enjoyed sabbatical research at the Centre of Ornithology, University of Otago (NZ) and in 20018, she visited the Department of Physiology, University of Ontario, Canada to work with Prof Denise Belsham. As independent research group leader at the University of Bradford, she continues to work on chemerin molecular physiology in the hypothalamus and investigates circadian rhythms in energy balance regulation which has recently generated significant international recognition.


Dr Helfer’s main interests and areas of expertise are in neuroendocrinology and chronobiology. Her research so far has centred on the control of circadian rhythms and seasonality in vertebrates and this has recently led to investigations in the central regulation of growth and energy balance

Professional activities

  • 01-JAN-07: University of Birmingham, UK - PhD
  • 01-JAN-01: University of Salzburg, Austria - MSc (Mag.rer.nat.)
  • 01-JAN-99: University of Salzburg, Austria - BSc
  • 01-JAN-18: University of Bradford - FHEA

  • 01-MAR-16: University of Bradford, UK - Lecturer in Biomedical Science
  • 01-JUL-09: Rowett Institute of Nutrition and Health, University of Aberdeen, UK -  Research Fellow
  • 01-JAN-09: School of Science and the Environment, University of Worcester, UK - Teaching Fellow
  • 01-JAN-07: University of Birmingham, UK - Research Fellow
  • 01-JAN-01:   Max Planck Institute for Ornithology, Seewiesen, Germany - Research Assistant

  • 01-AUG-14: British Society for Neuroendocrinology,
  • 01-AUG-16: British Society for Neuroendocrinology,
  • 01-AUG-16: British Society for Neuroendocrinology,

  • N/A

  • Organisation of Scientific Meetings: Alison Douglas Summer School “Food for Thought” with Full4Health (FP7 EU project), held in 07/2013 in Chiemsee, Germany
  • Organisation of Scientific Meetings: Annual meetings of the Aberdeen Centre for Energy Regulation and Obesity (ACERO) at the Rowett Institute of Nutrition and Health, University of Aberdeen, UK, 2013 and 2014
  • Organisation of Scientific Meetings: Early Stage Researcher Symposium for the British Society for Neuroendocrinology, held in 08/2016 in Glasgow, UK
  • Organisation of Scientific Meetings: Early Stage Researcher Symposium for the French and British Neuroendocrine Societies (SNE and BSN), held in 09/2015 in Lille, France


TitleCherries with different geographical origins regulate neuroprotection in a photoperiod-dependent manner in F344 rats (2024)
AuthorsFrancesca Manocchio, Francisca Isabel Bravo, Gisela Helfer, Begona Muguerza
TitleThe Chemerin-CMKLR1 Axis is Functionally important for Central Regulation of Energy Homeostasis (2022)
AuthorsYun, H: Dumbell, R: Hanna, K: Bowen, J; McLean, SL; Kantamneni, S; Pors, K; Wu, QF; Helfer, G
JournalFrontiers in Physiology
TitleEditorial: Women in integrative physiology: 2021. (2022)
AuthorsHelfer G;Kadmiel M;Jethwa PH;
JournalFrontiers in Physiology
TitleHypothalamic Rax+ tanycytes contribute to tissue repair and tumorigenesis upon oncogene activation in mice. (2021)
AuthorsMu W;Li S;Xu J;Guo X;Wu H;Chen Z;Qiao L;Helfer G;Lu F;Liu C;Wu QF;
JournalNature Communications
TitleThe effect of photoperiod and high fat diet on the cognitive response in photoperiod-sensitive F344 rats. (2021)
AuthorsMcLean SL;Yun H;Tedder A;Helfer G;
JournalPhysiology and Behavior
TitleEndocrine drivers of photoperiod response (2020)
AuthorsHelfer G.;Dumbell R.
JournalCurrent Opinion in Endocrine and Metabolic Research
TitlePleiotropic effects of proopiomelanocortin and VGF nerve growth factor inducible neuropeptides for the long-term regulation of energy balance (2020)
AuthorsHelfer G.;Stevenson T.J.
JournalMolecular and Cellular Endocrinology
TitlePleiotropic effects of proopiomelanocortin and VGF nerve growth factor inducible neuropeptides for the long-term regulation of energy balance. (2020)
AuthorsHelfer G;Stevenson TJ;
JournalMolecular and Cellular Endocrinology
TitleA unifying hypothesis for control of body weight and reproduction in seasonally breeding mammals (2019)
AuthorsHelfer, Gisela; Barrett, P.; Morgan, P.J.
TitleChemerin: A multifaceted adipokine involved in metabolic disorders (2018)
AuthorsHelfer, Gisela; Wu, Q-F.
TitleHypothalamic Wnt signalling and its role in energy balance regulation (2016)
AuthorsHelfer, Gisela; Tups, A.
TitleThyroid hormone activation of retinoic acid synthesis in hypothalamic tanycytes (2016)
AuthorsStoney, P.N.; Helfer, Gisela; Rodrigues, D.; Morgan, P.J.; McCaffery, P.J.
TitlePhotoperiodic and Diurnal Regulation of WNT Signaling in the Arcuate Nucleus of the Female Djungarian Hamster, Phodopus sungorus. (2016)
AuthorsBoucsein A;Benzler J;Hempp C;Stöhr S;Helfer G;Tups A;
TitleA seasonal switch in histone deacetylase gene expression in the hypothalamus and their capacity to modulate nuclear signaling pathways (2016)
AuthorsStoney, P.N.; Rodrigues, D.; Helfer, Gisela; Khatib, T.; Ashton, A.; Hay, E.A.; Starr, R.; Kociszewska, D.; Morgan, P.J.; McCaffery, P.J.
TitleA neuroendocrine role for chemerin in hypothalamic remodelling and photoperiodic control of energy balance (2016)
AuthorsHelfer, Gisela; Ross, A.W.; Thomson, L.M.; Mayer, C.D.; Stoney, P.N.; McCaffery, P.J.; Morgan, P.J.
TitlePhotoperiod Regulates Lean Mass Accretion, but Not Adiposity, in Growing F344 Rats Fed a High Fat Diet (2015)
AuthorsRoss, A.W.; Russell, L.; Helfer, Gisela; Thomson, L.M.; Dalby, M.J.; Morgan, P.J.
TitleDual signal transduction pathways activated by TSH receptors in rat primary 1 tanycyte cultures (2015)
AuthorsBolborea, M.; Helfer, Gisela; Ebling, F.J.P.; Barrett, P.
TitlePhotoperiodic Effects on Seasonal Physiology, Reproductive Status and Hypothalamic Gene Expression in Young Male F344 Rats (2015)
AuthorsTavolaro, F.M.; Thomson, L.M.; Ross, A.W.; Morgan, P.J.; Helfer, Gisela
TitleNeuromedin U partly mimics thyroid-stimulating hormone and triggers Wnt/β-catenin signalling in the photoperiodic response of F344 rats. (2013)
AuthorsHelfer G;Ross AW;Morgan PJ;
JournalJournal of Neuroendocrinology
TitlePhotoperiod regulates vitamin A and Wnt/β-catenin signaling in F344 rats. (2012)
AuthorsHelfer G;Ross AW;Russell L;Thomson LM;Shearer KD;Goodman TH;McCaffery PJ;Morgan PJ;
TitlePhotoperiodic expression of two RALDH enzymes and the regulation of cell proliferation by retinoic acid in the rat hypothalamus. (2012)
AuthorsShearer KD;Stoney PN;Nanescu SE;Helfer G;Barrett P;Ross AW;Morgan PJ;McCaffery P;
JournalJournal of Neurochemistry
TitleMelatonin receptor expression in the zebra finch brain and peripheral tissues. (2012)
AuthorsJones C;Helfer G;Brandstätter R;
JournalChronobiology International
TitleThyroid hormone signalling genes are regulated by photoperiod in the hypothalamus of F344 rats. (2011)
AuthorsRoss AW;Helfer G;Russell L;Darras VM;Morgan PJ;
JournalPLoS ONE
TitleMolecular analysis of clock gene expression in the avian brain. (2006)
AuthorsHelfer G;Fidler AE;Vallone D;Foulkes NS;Brandstaetter R;
JournalChronobiology International