Grahame Hardie was the first to define a key cellular energy sensor called AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK). All living cells contain the equivalent of a rechargeable battery involving the chemicals ATP, ADP and AMP. AMPK senses when this battery is running flat by detecting increases in AMP and ADP relative to ATP. AMPK then acts to remedy the situation by switching on the breakdown of molecules such as glucose and fats to regenerate ATP, while switching off most ATP-consuming processes, including cell growth and division.
He discovered that AMPK is activated in muscle during exercise, and that it is responsible for many of the metabolic changes and health benefits of regular exercise. AMPK also has important roles in several human diseases, including type 2 diabetes, cancer and inflammatory disorders. Grahame showed that AMPK is the main target of the key anti-diabetic drug metformin, and that the major breakdown product of aspirin — salicylate — also switches on AMPK.
Grahame received the 2008 Rolf Luft Award of Karolinska Institute and the 2010 Novartis Medal of the Biochemical Society.
Interest and expertise
Biochemistry and molecular cell biology
Biochemistry and molecular biology
Biochemistry, Exercise, Diet and type 2 diabetes, Basic cancer research