James Larkin
Lecturer in Biochemistry


My first degree was in Biochemistry here at Trinity College, followed by periods working at the Sanger Institute in Cambridge and at the University of Essex. My PhD was at Warwick University, where I studied thiamine metabolism in diabetes, before moving back to Oxford to take up my current position as a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Oncology.


I give tutorials to first-year biochemistry students on topics covering the fundamentals of molecular and cellular biochemistry. Particular emphasis is given to DNA transcription and translation as well as the understanding of techniques used in genetic analysis and cloning.


My main research interests lie in the use of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) to characterise and diagnose diseases of the brain, particularly metastatic tumours but also others such as multiple sclerosis (MS).

Understanding the flow of blood into and around a tumour is an important part of tumour research. Tumours need nutrients and oxygen for growth and often have a very abnormal vasculature, grown in a disorganised and ad hoc fashion. I use a number of perfusion- and diffusion-based MRI techniques in models of brain metastasis to try to understand how abnormal vasculature gives rise to known tumour pathology. A secondary aim is to understand how this abnormal vasculature affects the ability of conventional chemotherapy or radiotherapy to treat the tumours.

Metabolomic analysis of biofluid samples, such as urine and blood plasma, is a method to model chemical changes in different disease states. A large amount of information about the chemical composition of samples is gathered, for example by NMR, and statistical modelling is then used to compare and separate disease groups. In this way, we have shown that it is possible to separate relapse-remitting and secondary progressive MS patients using a blood test in a way that is much more rapid (days) than current clinical diagnosis methods (typically up to a year).spectra_examples_small

Selected Publications

  • ‘A type 2 biomarker separates relapsing-remitting from secondary progressive multiple sclerosis’: Dickens AM*, Larkin JR*, Griffin JL, Cavey A, Matthews L, Turner MR, Wilcock GK, Davis BG, Claridge TD, Palace J, Anthony DC, Sibson NR [* Authors contributed equally, cited alphabetically] (2014)
    Neurology. DOI: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000000905
  • ‘Glucose-induced down regulation of thiamine transporters in the kidney proximal tubular epithelium produces thiamine insufficiency in diabetes’: James R. Larkin, Fang Zhang, Lisa Godfrey, Guerman Molostvov, Daniel Zehnder, Naila Rabbani and Paul J. Thornalley (2012)
    PLOS ONE 7 12 e53175. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0053175.
  • ‘Recent advances in SALDI-MS techniques and their chemical and bioanalytical applications’: Law KP, Larkin JR (2011)
    Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry 399 8 2597-2622. DOI: 10.1007/s00216-010-4063-3.
  • ‘High-dose thiamine therapy for patients with type 2 diabetes and microalbuminuria: a randomised, double-blind placebo-controlled pilot study’: Rabbani N, Alam SS, Riaz S, Larkin JR, Akhtar MW, Shafi T, Thornalley PJ. (2009)
    Diabetologia 52 2 208-12. DOI: 10.1007/s00125-008-1224-4.