Personal profile


Karen Chapman currently holds a personal chair in Molecular Endocrinology at the University of Edinburgh, in the Centre for Cardiovascular Science at the Queen's Medical Research Institute. She is also an Adjunct Professor at the University of Western Australia. She joined the University of Edinburgh in 1991 from the MRC Brain Metabolism Unit in Edinburgh and before that, postdoctoral fellowships at Harvard University. She was awarded her PhD from the University of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne. She has wide-ranging interests in endocrinology, but particularly glucocorticoid action. She is an active member of the Society for Endocrinology and currently serves as the General Secretary to the Society.

My research in a nutshell

Karen Chapman: Glucocorticoid action

Research in my lab is focussed on the actions of glucocorticoids - steroid hormones that play key roles in stress, inflammatory and other homeostatic responses, and developmentally, in maturing the fetus ready for life after birth.



Developmental effects of glucocorticoids: fetal programming

For over 50 years we have known that glucocorticoids are essential in late gestation for fetal lung maturation and life beyond birth: hence, potent synthetic glucocorticoids are administered to pregnant women at risk of preterm delivery. Whilst previously assumed to be completely safe, considerable evidence now suggests that excessive fetal exposure is not as harm-free as previously assumed. We discovered a role for endogenous glucocorticoid action in maturing the fetal heart. We are now investigating the mechanisms, including whether glucocorticoid action in the perinatal period determines cardiomyocyte endowment in adulthood. We are also testing the effects of precocious activation of glucocorticoid receptors upon fetal hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, heart function and survival.


11beta-HSD1 in the immuno-modulatory and metabolic effects of glucocorticoids

A key level of control over glucocorticoid action is their metabolism by the 11beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase (11beta-HSD) enzymes. Work from Edinburgh has established the important role played by 11beta-HSD1 in the immune-modulating, anti-inflammatory and metabolic effects of glucocorticoids. We are now focussing on novel aspects of 11beta-HSD1, including how it shapes immune and inflammatory responses via metabolic switches and its role in bile acid homeostasis.  


Education/Academic qualification

Biochemistry, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), The RecB and RecC genes of E. coli, Newcastle University


Award Date: 30 Nov 1983

Biochemistry, Bachelor of Science, Newcastle University


Award Date: 1 Jul 1980

External positions

General Secretary, Society for Endocrinology

6 Nov 20155 Nov 2018

Adjunct Professor, University of Western Australia

17 Jul 201516 Jul 2018


  • Q Science (General)
  • Glucocorticoid
  • steroid metabolism
  • transcriptional regulation
  • fetal programming
  • cardiovascular
  • Endocrinology


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