Smooth Muscle Research Centre >> People >> Professor Keith Thornbury

Professor Keith Thornbury


Professor of Physiology

Email Address


Room 303
Smooth Muscle Research Centre
Dundalk Institute of Technology
Dublin Road

Lab Telephone

0429 370 526

Office Telephone

0429 370 509

Research Interests Keith graduated in medicine in QUB in 1982, having obtained an intercalated BSc in physiology along the way.  After completing his House Officer training, he returned to QUB, completing a PhD in physiology in 1987.  He spent 22 years in the Physiology Department in QUB as a Lecturer, Senior Lecturer and Reader, with sabbaticals in Reno, Nevada in 1990 and Nagoya, Japan in 2004, before moving with three colleagues to Dundalk Institute of Technology in 2005 to set up the Smooth Muscle Research Centre. His research focuses on fundamental mechanisms that are relevant to clinical conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), overactive bladder and erectile dysfunction. Malfunction of smooth muscle contractions play a critical part in each of these disorders. The Smooth Muscle Research Centre includes experts in ion channel physiology, medicinal chemistry, pharmacology, live cell imaging and biotechnology. They work together as a team with the common purpose of identifying novel therapeutic targets for treating diseases involving abnormal smooth muscle contractions.                                                                                                                                                                            

Publications: Click here for my publications:

Grant Income

2019-2023        Irish Research Council, Targeting K+ channels to develop new treatments for erectile dysfunction. Value of Award €96,000 (PI).
2017-2021        European Union (SEUPB). Interreg VA Programme. BREATH Project Value of Award €7.7M (€3.9M for DkIT). (PI, and overall Lead).
2014-2016        IOTI: GoSlo-SR as a novel treatment for asthma. Value of Award €24,000 (PI).
2013-2015        IOTI: Effect of novel GoSlo-SR compounds on electrical activity in corpus cavernosum smooth muscle.Value of Award €24,000 (PI).
2011-2015        SFI RFP: Molecular modulators underlying the action of novel BK channel modulators: Value of Award: €153,000 (Role: Collaborator)
2009-2011        Enterprise Ireland: Applied Research Enhancement Scheme: Ion Channel Biotechnology Centre– developing a biotechnology cluster in the North East Region. Value of Award ARE20080001 €1997,450 (Co-PI) 
2008-2011            Enterprise Ireland: Equipment Award-Revolution xD confocal cell and tissue imaging system. CE20080020.Value of Award €489,000 (PI)
2008-2012            Enterprise Ireland: Proof of Concept Award: Novel Modulators of Large Conductance Ca2+ activated K+ channels – determining specificity in bladder smooth muscle. Value of Award PC20080124. €120,000 (Co-PI)
2008-2011            Children’s Research Centre: Development of Interstitial Cells of Cajal in the ganglionic and aganglionic bowel.Value of Award €224,000 (Co-PI) 
2007-2011            Science Foundation Ireland. Research Frontiers programme: Role of interstitial cells of Cajal in corpus cavernosum. Value of Award €162,297 BIMF377 (PI)
2006-2008        Council of Directors: Cellular mechanisms of penile erection
Value of Award €37,000 (PI)
2006-2009            Health Research Board: Research Project Grant. ‘Role of Reverse Sodium/Calcium Exchange in modulation of calcium oscillations in interstitial cells of the rabbit urethra’ Value of Award €221,000. RP/2006/127. (Co-PI)          
2005-2011        National Institutes of Health (NIDDK, USA)-Myogenic Tone in the urethra and its modulation by neurotransmitters. Value of Award $1,180,068 RO1 DK68565. (Co-PI)
2005-2008        The Wellcome Trust. Programme Grant. Regulation of synovial hyaluronan secretion. Value of Award £388,087 076752/52/B/05/2 (Co-PI)
2003-2004        ANDOR Technology – Development of an ultrafast,ultrasensitive EMCCD confocal microscopy system for in vivo imaging.
                        Value of Award £85,000 (Co-PI)
2001-2005        Diabetes UK – Ca2+ signalling in isolated myocytes from the rabbit corpus cavernosum. Value of Award £107,465 RD03/0002695 (PI)
2002-2005            The Wellcome Trust - Pacemaker mechanisms in isolated interstitial cells of the rabbit urethra. Value of Award £300,000 064212 (PI)
2001-2004            Action Research – Physiology and Pharmacology of human urethral smooth muscle.Value of Award £107,000 (Co-PI)
2002-2004            HPSS PhD studentship. Value of Award £49,731(PI)
2002                         The Royal Society (Equipment Grant) Value of Award £5,919 Ref: 23350 (PI)
1998-2003        European Union. Fourth Framework Grant – Lymphatics and interstitium 
The purpose of this study was to investigate the mechanisms underlying modulation of pacemaking in lymphatic smooth muscle during stretch.
                        Value of Award £119,646 (Co-PI)
1996-1999            The British Heart Foundation- The morphological and electrical basis of pacemaking in sheep lymphatic vessels. Value of Award £91,633 (Co-PI)
1993-1996        The Wellcome Trust. The Mechanism of nitric oxide-mediated relaxation of the smooth muscle sphincter of the urinary bladder. Value of Award £91,815, 036449/z/92/z (PI)
1991-1994            The Wellcome Trust – The electrical properties of sheep mesenteric lymphatic vessels. Value of Award £71,000 M/91/840 (Co-PI)
1992-1993            DHSS (NI)-The inhibitory innervation of the smooth muscle sphincter of the urinary bladder, Value of Award £7,328 (PI)
1990-1991        National Institutes of Health (USA). International Fogarty Research Fellowship, Value of Award $28,000 (PI)
1988-1990            DHSS (NI) Value of Award £9,000 (Co-PI)
1987-1989            DHSS (NI) Value of Award £10,000 (Co-PI)
1987-1989            The British Heart Foundation: Role of the sympathetic nervous system in lymph flow changes during haemorrhage Value of Award £10,000 (Co-PI)
1987-1989            The British Heart Foundation: Value of Award £37,000 (PI)
1985-1987        DHSS (NI) Value of Award £6,000 (Co-PI)