Professor Sir Philip Randle

Researcher into metabolism


Philip John Randle, biochemist: born Nuneaton, Warwickshire 16 July 1926; Medical and Surgical Officer, UCH 1951; Research Fellow in Biochemistry, Cambridge University 1952-55, University Lecturer in Biochemistry 1955-64; Fellow, Trinity Hall, Cambridge 1957-64, Director of Medical Studies 1957-64; Professor of Biochemistry, Bristol University 1964-75; Professor of Clinical Biochemistry, Oxford University 1975-93 (Emeritus); Fellow, Hertford College, Oxford 1975-93 (Emeritus); FRS 1983; Kt 1985; Fellow, UCL 1990; married 1952 Elizabeth Harrison (died 2004; two daughters, and one son and one daughter deceased); died Oxford 26 September 2006.

Philip Randle was one of the world's foremost researchers into mammalian metabolism. Many of his findings were concerned with insulin's role in metabolism and with the control of secretion of the hormone from the pancreatic islets of Langerhans beta-cells. The ideas generated by his investigations laid the foundations for countless subsequent other studies and have a direct bearing on the understanding of diabetes.

Randle was born in Nuneaton, Warwickshire, in 1926 and went to school at King Edward VI Grammar School, Nuneaton. He read Natural Sciences at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, gaining a First in Part II Biochemistry, and then Medicine at University College Hospital before returning to Cambridge to carry out his first research studies on insulin, under the supervision of Professor Frank Young. He was awarded his PhD in 1955 for a thesis entitled "Studies on the Metabolic Action of Insulin" and was immediately appointed Lecturer in Biochemistry at Cambridge University.

In 1964, Randle was appointed founding Professor and Chairman of the Department of Biochemistry at Bristol University. Under his leadership, the new department became one of the strongest in Britain and remains so to this day.

He went to Oxford as the first Professor of Clinical Biochemistry in 1975, and spent the rest of his career as head of the Nuffield Department of Clinical Biochemistry. Randle was content for the NDCB to remain a small unit, in contrast to Bristol. He took with him Steve Ashcroft, with whom he continued his interest in the control of insulin secretion, and Alan Kerbey, with whom he studied the regulation of the key metabolic enzyme pyruvate dehydrogenase, which had become a major interest for Randle because of its central importance in the inhibition of glucose utilisation by fatty acids. Dick Denton, another early research student of Randle's, who had been closely involved with Randle in work on adipose tissue, remained behind in Bristol, where he pursued and expanded the study of the metabolic effects of insulin.

The NDCB, despite its small size, was highly productive and gained an outstanding reputation in diabetes research under Randle's leadership. Randle retired officially in 1993 but maintained an active interest in the topics that had occupied him throughout his career and continued to act as editor for scientific journals.

His best-known contribution to diabetes research is probably the glucose-fatty acid cycle. This innovative hypothesis, first put forward in a paper in The Lancet in 1963 with Eric Newsholme, Nick Hales and Peter Garland, was based on the demonstration that fatty acids reduce the oxidation of sugar by muscle. Randle and his colleagues speculated that increased fat oxidation was responsible for the insulin resistance (i.e. failure of insulin to adequately increase glucose utilisation by muscle) associated with obesity and Type 2 diabetes.

A biochemical mechanism was proposed to account for this effect and in a succession of papers, evidence was presented to support the idea. Thus the new possibility was suggested that, instead of being solely a disorder of carbohydrate metabolism, the primary event in the development of insulin resistance could be excessive release of fatty acids from fat tissue. The fundamental importance of the glucose-fatty acid cycle in normal physiology is now fully accepted.

Randle also proposed a second major hypothesis in the 1960s to explain how increases in blood sugar levels may result in increases in the secretion of insulin. Based on their observations of the ability of various sugars to stimulate insulin secretion in vitro, Randle and Hal Coore proposed that it was the metabolism of glucose within the beta-cell that was in some way coupled to triggering insulin release.

This metabolic model for glucose-stimulated insulin release, given the name of the substrate-site hypothesis, was supported by a long series of studies with Ashcroft, first in Bristol and later in Oxford, and is now fully accepted. The details of the biochemical mechanisms involved have been elucidated, the molecular components identified and modern techniques of molecular biology and genetics brought to bear on analysis of the possible contribution of mutations in these components to the development of diabetes.

Philip Randle was an impressive figure, both physically and mentally. He possessed an extraordinary memory for facts. At scientific meetings, he could be formidable in his ability to quote chapter and verse to support his arguments. But he was also capable of great kindness and support for those he took under his wing, scientifically.

He received many honours for his research work. He was the first recipient of the Minkowski Prize of the European Diabetes Association in 1966; he was elected to the Royal Society in 1983; and he was knighted in 1985. In all his activities he was supported by his wife, Elizabeth, whom he married in 1952 and who died two years ago. He also suffered the loss of a son, Peter, who died in 1971 while still in his teens, and a daughter, Susan, who died last year. His two daughters Sally and Rosalind survive him.

Steve Ashcroft and Dick Denton

Life and Style
“What is it like being a girl?” was the question on the lips of one inquisitive Reddit user this week
News
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
Life and Style
beauty
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Sport
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
transfers
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

Sport
German supporters (left) and Argentina fans
world cup 2014Final gives England fans a choice between to old enemies
Arts and Entertainment
A still from the worldwide Dawn of the Planet of the Apes trailer debut
film
News
peopleMario Balotelli poses with 'shotgun' in controversial Instagram pic
News
A mugshot of Ian Watkins released by South Wales Police following his guilty pleas
peopleBandmates open up about abuse
Sport
Basketball superstar LeBron James gets into his stride for the Cleveland Cavaliers
sportNBA superstar announces decision to return to Cleveland Cavaliers
Sport
Javier Mascherano of Argentina tackles Arjen Robben of the Netherlands as he attempts a shot
world cup 2014
Arts and Entertainment
The successful ITV drama Broadchurch starring David Tenant and Olivia Coleman came to an end tonight
tv
Sport
Four ski officials in Slovenia have been suspended following allegations of results rigging
sportFour Slovenian officials suspended after allegations they helped violinist get slalom place
News
14 March 2011: George Clooney testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing titled 'Sudan and South Sudan: Independence and Insecurity.' Clooney is co-founder of the Satellite Sentinel Project which uses private satellites to collect evidence of crimes against civilian populations in Sudan
people
Arts and Entertainment
Balaban is indirectly responsible for the existence of Downton Abbey, having first discovered Julian Fellowes' talents as a screenwriter
tvCast members told to lose weight after snacking on set
Life and Style
More than half of young adults have engaged in 'unwanted but consensual sexting with a committed partner,' according to research
tech
Life and Style
A binge is classed as four or more alcoholic drinks for women and five or more for men, consumed over a roughly two-hour period
tech
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

JavaScript Developer (Angular, Web Forms, HTML5, Ext JS,CSS3)

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: JavaScript Dev...

BC2

£50000 - £70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...

SAP Data Migration Consultant

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client, a FTSE 100 organisation are u...

Programme Support, Coms, Bristol, £300-350p/d

£300 - £350 per day + competitive: Orgtel: My client, a leading bank, is curre...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice