I am the Academic Director of the Centre for Skin Sciences (www.bradford.ac.uk/css), one of the most well known academic centres in Britain for research and teaching in skin science. The Centre has a faculty of internationally renowned scientists whose mission is to better understand skin and hair biology, to provide an exciting research environment for our graduate and post graduate students and to foster successful partnerships with companies developing innovative new products for consumers and patients. Our research explores the cellular and molecular processes underlying skin and hair biology in both health and disease including world leading research focussed on the role of epigenetic processes in skin and hair biology.
I am also the Academic lead for the Plastic Surgery and Burns Research Unit (PSBRU) a charity established in the aftermath of the fire disaster at the Bradford City football club in 1985
(www.bradford.ac.uk/css/psbru). Building on almost 35 years of research into wound healing and scarring, this long standing unit provides a strong foundation for our young doctors who set out to pursue a career in Plastic Surgery and encourages them to embark on innovative research projects that generate evidence for practising evidence-based medicine. The unit has trained a number of research fellows over the years, with many now working as established consultants in various parts of the UK.
As a Senior Lecturer in Biomedical Sciences I teach undergraduate and graduate students, and have a number of Ph.D. students working under my supervision. I am the option convenor for the Cellular Pathology specialist option in the final year of the undergraduate Biomedical Sciences programme and I am the module leader for the level 6 module, Research Topics in Medical Cell Biology.
I am also a member of the Equality Diversity and Opportunities Group, in the School of Chemistry and Biosciences. The School received the Athena SWAN Bronze award in 2018.
However, I consider my greatest achievements to be my two sons, Tom and James.
The skin provides an excellent accessible human cell and tissue model with an exceptional ability for regeneration that significantly declines with age. Along with its appendages (e.g. glands, hair follicles) it is a complex organ, which is continually self-renewing and remodelling. The hair follicle recapitulates embryogenesis throughout adult life with each hair cycle displaying a unique postnatal regenerative capacity. Cell types of different lineages, e.g. epithelial, connective, vascular, epithelial stem cells, mesenchymal stem cells, melanocytes, can all be isolated and cultured either individually or in 3D-co-culture, thus providing an excellent collection of primary human cells for cellular and molecular studies of cell signaling, changes in gene and protein expression, including epigenetic changes and the regulation of gene regulatory networks. Using these human cell and tissue models my research is focused primarily on wound healing and ageing, particularly in post-menopausal women.
There is a strong need to develop relevant human cell and tissue models to decipher the underpinning mechanisms of disease, which will be key to providing effective therapeutics and in identifying those patients at risk of developing particular diseases. Since it is possible to obtain both normal and diseased human skin from different age groups, and different populations, and the different types of primary cells, including stem cells, can be isolated and cultured, this opens up an extensive range of potential areas for investigation. Since primary cells in isolation may not respond in the same way as they would in their normal environment, we are developing 3D co-cultures, and 3D-cultures using scaffolds. Using bioimaging we can compare the spatial arrangement of these cells with ex vivo whole tissue to identify superior, relevant in vitro models for human studies.
Current PhD Students
Influence of adipocytes on radiotherapy tissue; implications on wound-healing and scar tissue formation/maturation
Aging of the hair follicle dermal environment
Effective removal of antimicrobial resistant bacteria from chronic wounds
Impaired wounded healing and inflammation: the role of the dermal fibroblast
Other Research Projects and Collaborations with Industry:
KTP Innovate UK funded collaboration with Jacobo Elies (School of Pharmacy and Medical Sciences) and Alex Chapman (Labskin, York). This is principally to apply our expertise in human skin primary cell culture to Labskin’s current 2-cell skin equivalent model to produce a superior 3-cell pigmented model.
We have been working with this company for several years to understand more about the biology of ageing hair.
Nutraceutical Wellness LLC (Nutrafol) a NY-based nutritional supplement company that aims to help men and women experiencing thinning hair through a multi-targeted approach are collaborating on a project that bring together science and expertise to research human hair biology, hair thinning, and the connection between molecular mechanisms and hormonal signals in many cell types.
Follicum AB, (www.follicum.com) a biotech company are working with us to understand the mechanism of their drugs on hair loss and diabetes.
Zouboulis CC, Chen WC, Thornton MJ, Qin K, Rosenfield R (2007) Sexual hormones in human skin. Horm Metab Res 39: 85-95
Stevenson S, Taylor AH, Meskiri A, Sharpe DT and Thornton MJ (2008) Differing responses of human follicular and non-follicular scalp cells in an in vitro wound healing assay: effects of estrogen on vascular endothelial growth factor secretion. Wound Repair Regen. 16: 243-253
Laing I &Thornton J (2017)Reproductive Endocrinology. In: Clinical Biochemistry, Editor N Ahmed, Oxford University Press, (2nd edition)
Laing I &Thornton J (2011)Reproductive Endocrinology. In: Clinical Biochemistry, Editor N Ahmed, Oxford University Press, pp 415-449
Thornton MJ, Nelson LD, Taylor AH, Mulligan KT, Al-Azzawi F and Messenger AG (2003) Human Non-Balding Scalp Dermal Papilla Cells Express Estrogen Receptor beta (ERb) Protein in vivoand in vitro. In: Hair Science and Technology, Editor D. Van Neste pp105-112 (80%,7 pages) ·
Thornton, MJ, Thomas, DG, Jenner, TJ, Brinklow, BR, Loudon, ASI and Randall, VA (1996) Testosterone or IGF-1 stimulated hair growth in whole organ culture only in androgen-dependent red deer hair follicles. In: Hair research in the next Millenium. Proceedings of the 1st Tricontinental Meeting of Hair Research Societies, Brussels, 1995. Springer-Verlag. Editors D van Neste & VA Randall
Thornton MJ, Thomas DG, Brinklow BR, Louden ASI and Randall VA (1994) Breeding mane hair follicles from red deer (Cervus elaphus) stags are stimulated by testosterone in whole organ culture. In: Recent Developments in Deer Biology, Editor JA Milne
- 01-JAN-19: Conference Organising Committee: British Society for Investigative Dermatology Annual Meeting, Bradford, UK
- 01-JAN-16: Conference Organising Committee: Epigenetic Control of Skin Regeneration, Ageing and Disease. International Symposium, Bradford, UK
- 01-JAN-15: Conference Organising Committee: Meeting of the Heads of University Centres of Biomedical Sciences, (HUCBMS), Annual Meeting, Bradford
- 01-JAN-13: Conference Organising Committee: Meeting of the 7th World Congress for Hair Research, Edinburgh
- 01-JAN-11: Conference Organising Committee: Wound Healing Society Basics Course, Dallas, USA,
- 01-JAN-10: Conference Organising Committee: Wound Healing Society Basics Course, Orlando, USA,
- 01-JAN-09: Conference Organising Committee: Wound Healing Society Basics Course, Dallas, USA,
- 01-JAN-08: Conference Organising Committee: Wound Healing Society Basics Course, San Diego, USA,
- 01-JAN-00: Conference Organising Committee: Meeting of the European Hair Research Society, York, UK
- Member of the University of Bradford Course Approval and Review Team (Faculty of Life Sciences)
- Member of the Collaborative Provision Audit Working Group
- Alternate member of the University's Course Approval and Review Panel
- Transfer Review Panel - approve transfer of postgraduate students to PhD status following Viva Voce (Faculty of Life Sciences)
- Member of the British Society for Investigative Dermatology
- Member of the European Hair Research Society
- Editorial Board Member: Scientific Reports, Nature Publishing Group, Cell Biology Section of the Board Impact factor 5.578
- 01-JAN-17: Advisory Board: Wounds 2017 (UK) with the remit of building this annual conference into a major international congress