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Professor Hilary Anne MacQueen

Profile summary

  • Central Academic Staff
  • Professor of Health Sciences
  • Faculty of Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics
  • School of Life, Health & Chemical Sciences
  • hilary.macqueen

Professional biography

My first degree was in Genetics and Microbiology, and my PhD was in Molecular Biology, studying the process of division in E. coli. I carried out post-doctoral research at the Imperial Cancer Research Fund in London, and at the Dept of Anatomy, University of Cambridge, before coming to The Open University in 1983. In addition to my work as a central academic I have been an Associate Lecturer, a Tutor-Counsellor, and an Open University student. I have been Director of Teaching, Health Sciences Programme Lead, and Head of Department. I have been Chair, and remain on the Executive Committee, of the Heads of University Biosciences, a special interest group of the Royal Society of Biology. I am also a Trustee of the Royal Society of Biology Council.

Research interests

My research interests follow two strands: the functions of adipose tissue and how diet can affect them, and methods for supporting students, particularly those studying in the workplace.

Previously we have studied the local interactions that occur between lymph node cells and the surrounding adipocytes, and the effect of diet on these processes. We are particularly interested in the interactions that occur when the lymph node is subjected to an immune challenge, and becomes activated to respond to the challenge. The activated lymph node cells release a variety of inflammatory cytokines, which bind to receptors on the adipocytes. These then respond by upregulating the expression of the cytokine receptors, and releasing some of their stored triacylglycerol fatty acids. The whole adipose depot can be affected, with new blood vessels developing following even a small immune challenge. We are currently expanding our interests to examine interactions between epicardial adipose tissue and underlying cardiac myocytes. The adipocytes are able to modulate the contractions of the cardiac myocytes, suggesting that the interactions between them are important in health and disease.

The fatty acids released by the adipocytes can be used locally by neighbouring cells to support their functions. The fatty acids can be used as a source of energy, but, more interestingly, they can also be used as precursors of new plasma membranes and of eicosanoid signalling molecules. The proximity of adipocytes to their neighbours means that interactions occur very rapidly, and the relationships between the cells is highly dynamic. There is evidence that the time-course of interactions can be affected by the fatty acid content of the diet.

We have developed a tissue culture model in which we can explore these mechanisms further. We have devised a three-dimensional co-culture system in which adipocytes and other cell types such as lymph node cells or cardiac myocytes can be grown together in a way that mimics the internal environment (Patent Application number 0606764.9). Using this system, we can apply a simulated environmental challenge and monitor the molecular effects. We can also modify the culture conditions in such a way as to model the effects of different diets on the process. The culture system is readily adaptible to the culture of a variety of cell types, including stem cells, where their properties can be investigated in a three-dimensional environment.

My pedagogic research has focussed on the support of students in the workplace, and the extent to which changes in their learning environment influences their academic success. As part of this project I have looked at the influence of different approaches to assessment to discover whether particular types of assessment are more appropriate for work-based students.

I am also interested in online teaching of practical biology, and the extent to which students can achieve practical competences at a distance.


Recent publications

Aiken, F.J. and MacQueen, H.A. (2018) Best practice for supporting students in the workplace. Proc. 10thEDEN Research Workshop, in press

Hirst, M.C. and MacQueen, H.A. (2016) Practical Biology at a distance: how far can we go with online distance learning? In Teaching Science Online. Kennepohl, D. (ed). Stylus Publishing, Sterling, Va, USA.

Rietdorf, K. and MacQueen, H.A. (2016) Investigating interactions between epicardial adipose tissue and cardiac myocytes: what can we learn from different approaches? British Journal of Pharmacology. In press. 

Stramek, A., Wassif, W.S., Evans, K., Barkans, J. and MacQueen, H.A. (2015) Predictive value of biomarkers for normal and pathological aging in a rat model. International Journal of Food Science, Nutrition and Dietetics S3:003: 16-22. 

Cauchi, M., Hopes, K., Walton, C., MacQueen, H.A., Wassif, W.S. and Turner, C. (2015) A novel method for the analysis of clinical biomarkers to investigate the effect of diet on health in a rat model. Analyst, 140: 3028-3038. DOI: 10.1039/c5an00182j  

Teaching interests

Since first joining the OU, I have worked on 25 modules: PS621 Biotechnology, S325 Biochemistry and cell biology, T274 Food production systems, S280 Science matters, S327 Molecular biology, SK220 Human biology and health, S804 Communicating science, S204 Biology: uniformity and diversity, S320 Infectious disease, K221 Perspectives on complementary and alternative medicine, S377 Cell and molecular biology, SXR374 Fat: the physiology of adipose tissue, SXR 375 Plants, pigments and light, SXR376 Molecular basis of human disease, BS811 MBA Life science, SK183 Understanding human nutrition, SK120 Diabetes care, SDK125 Introducing health sciences: a case study approach, and three Science Foundation Degrees, involving the work-based courses S110 Health sciences in practice, S210 Developing your health science practice, S211 Developing your Paramedic practice, S212 Developing your Operating Department practice, SK320 Infectious disease and public health, SDK100 Science and Health: an evidence-based approach, and SXY130, part of the Laboratory Scientist Degree Apprenticeship.

For several years I was Award Director for Health Sciences,and I still lead the Work-based learning Programme.

Impact and engagement

I have a significant external profile and my work with HUBS and the Royal Society of Biology offer good opportunities for networking and influencing in the wider Higher Education sector. I have sat on a number of Working Groups, particularly those dealing with the status of university teaching, and the problems faced by returners to science following a career break. As a Trustee of the RSB Council I am able to keep abreast of, and influence, developments in my professional sector.


Research Activity

Research groups

NameTypeParent Unit
Biomedical Research Network (BRN)NetworkFaculty of Science


Externally funded projects

Optimising a novel co-culture system to study cardiomyocyte-epicardial adipocyte interactions

RoleStart dateEnd dateFunding source
Lead01/Feb/201831/Jan/2019The Biochemical Society
‘The Biochemical Society’s Eric Reid Fund for methodological development. The grant is to optimise development of a functional coculture of adipocytes and cardiomyocytes.’


Supporting distance-taught students in the workplace (2019)
MacQueen, Hilary and Aiken, Fiona
Higher Education, Skills and Work-based Learning, Article 629800 ((Early Access))
Investigating interactions between epicardial adipose tissue and cardiac myocytes: what can we learn from different approaches? (2017-10)
Rietdorf, Katja and MacQueen, Hilary
British Journal of Pharmacology, 174(20) (pp. 3542-3560)
Predictive Value of Biomarkers for Normal and Pathological Ageing in a Rat Model (2015-12-19)
Stramek, A.; Wassif, W.; Evans, K.; Barkans, J. and MacQueen, H. A.
International Journal of Food Science, Nutrition and Dietetics, S3, Article 3 (pp. 16-22)
A novel method for the analysis of clinical biomarkers to investigate the effect of diet on health in a rat model (2015-05-07)
Hopes, Kerry; Cauchi, Michael; Walton, Christopher; MacQueen, Hilary; Wassif, W. S. and Turner, Claire
Analyst, 140(9) (pp. 3028-3038)
Hands off: can Paramedics be educated at a distance? (2013-10-07)
MacQueen, Hilary
Journal of Paramedic Practice, 5(10) (pp. 576-580)
Fuelling an immune response: an ultrastructural study of immune-stimulated lymph nodes (2013-03)
Daya, Sandeep; Davies, Heather; Colyer, Frances; Tuffnell, Joshua; Loughlin, Jane and MacQueen, Hilary
Applied Cell Biology, 2(1)
Age-related biomarkers can be modulated by diet in the rat (2011-10)
MacQueen, Hilary Anne; Wassif, Wassif Samuel; Walker, Ian; Sadler, Dawn Angela and Evans, Karen
Food and Nutrition Sciences, 2(8) (pp. 884-890)
Teaching biology at a distance: pleasures, pitfalls and possibilities (2009-07)
MacQueen, Hilary A and Thomas, Jeffery
American Journal of Distance Education, 23(3) (pp. 139-150)
Culture and differentiation of preadipocytes in two-dimensional and three-dimensional in vitro systems (2007-06)
Daya, Sandeep; Loughlin, Alison J. and MacQueen, Hilary A.
Differentiation, 75(5) (pp. 360-370)
Deleterious effects of a cafeteria diet on the livers of non-obese rats (2007-01)
MacQueen, Hilary A.; Sadler, Dawn A.; Moore, Sharon A.; Daya, Sandeep; Brown, Jacqueline Y.; Shuker, David E.G.; Seaman, Michael and Wassif, Wassif S.
Nutrition Research, 27(1) (pp. 38-47)
Impact of dietary fatty acids on the inflammatory immune response (2003-12)
MacQueen, H.A. and Sadler, D.A.
Focus on Alternative and Complementary Therapies, 8(4) (pp. 515-516)
Changes in lymphokine receptor expression and fatty acid composition of phospholipids and triacylglycerols in rat adipocytes associated with lymph nodes following a transient immune challenge (2003-01)
Priddle, J.D.; Mattacks, C.A.; Sadler, D.A.; MacQueen, H.A. and Pond, C.M.
Cell Biology International, 27(1) (pp. 23-29)
Practical biology at a distance: how far can we go with online distance learning? (2016-07-31)
Hirst, Mark C. and MacQueen, Hilary A.
In: Kennepohl, Dietmar ed. Teaching Science Online: Practical Guidance for Effective Instruction and Lab Work. Online Learning and Distance Education
ISBN : 978-1620361870 | Publisher : Stylus Publishing | Published : Sterling, VA, USA
Best practice for supporting students in the workplace. (2018-10-24)
Aiken, Fiona and MacQueen, Hilary
In : 10th EDEN Research Workshop (24-26 Oct 2018, Barcelona)
How does fat cause heart diseases? Effects of epicardial adipocytes on cardiomyocyte signalling and contractility (2016-09)
Masoud, Said; Bootman, Martin D.; McDonald, Fraser; MacQueen, Hilary and Rietdorf, Katja
In : 14th International Meeting of the European Calcium Society (25-29 Sep 2016, Valladolid, Spain)
Interactions between epicardial adipose tissue and cardiomyocytes: results from a 3D co-culture system (2015-12-17)
Rietdorf, Katja and MacQueen, Hilary
In : Pharmacology 2015 (British Pharmacological Society) (15-17 Dec 2015, London)
How does fat cause heart diseases? Effects of epicardial adipocytes on cardiomyocyte signalling and contractility (2015)
Rietdorf, Katja; MacQueen, Hilary and Bootman, Martin
In : Physiology 2015 (6-8 Jul 2015, Cardiff)
Adipocytes: a role in immunological memory? (2013-12)
Daya, Sandeep; Davies, Heather; Colyer, Frances; Tuffnell, Joshua; Loughlin, Jane and MacQueen, Hilary
In : 40th UK Adipose Tissue Discussion Group and BHF Centre for Research Excellence Adipose Tissue Workshop (12-13 Dec 2013, Edinburgh, UK)
Three-dimensional adipocyte cultures and co-cultures to study tissue interactions (2009-04-02)
Daya, Sandeep; Loughlin, Jane and MacQueen, Hilary
In : NC3Rs/BBSRC Symposium Tissue Engineering: a new dimension to animal replacement (2-3 Apr 2009, Royal College of Surgeons, London UK)
Adipocytes are present inside immune-stimulated lymph nodes (2007-02)
Daya, Sandeep; Davies, Heather; Colyer, Frances and MacQueen, Hilary
In : British Society for Immunology 50th Anniversary Meeting (20-23 Feb 2007, Glasgow, UK)
Development of a 3D coculture system to study adipocyte and lymph node cell interactions (2006-07)
Daya, S.; Loughlin, J. and MacQueen, H.
In : Tissue and cell engineering systems meeting 2006 (3-4 Jul 2006, Sheffield, UK)
Development of a three-dimensional co-culture system to study adipocyte and lymph node cell interactions (2005)
Daya, Sandeep; Loughlin, Jane and MacQueen, Hilary
In : British Society for Immunology Winter meeting 2005 (6-9 Dec 2005, Harrogate, UK)
Three-dimensional cell culture (2007)
MacQueen, Hilary; Loughlin, Jane and Daya, Sandeep

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