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Human Intervention Studies Unit (HISU)

The HISU is dedicated primarily to the carrying out of nutritional intervention trials on human volunteers. Studies may range from strictly-controlled residential trials, featuring a range of metabolic measurements, to non-residential trials with periodic checks.

The unit's state-of-the-art facilities include:

  • A specially-designed residential suite with accommodation for up to 10 human volunteers at a time, facilitating fully controlled studies with objective measurements.
  • A metabolic kitchen for preparation of duplicate meals.
  • A metabolic suite with:
    • body composition equipment (measurement of fat and lean weight) e.g. BodPod, abdominal fat analysers and DXA with Corescan for measurement of subcutaneous and visceral fat
    • indirect calorimeter for measures of basal or resting metabolic rate
    • DXA machine for measurement of bone densitometry and assessment of osteoporosis risk
    • treadmill, and equipment to measure heart rate and muscle strength
  • A Nutrition and Vascular Studies Platform allowing key scientific insights into both the macrovascular and microvascular parts of the cardiovascular system with ultrasound suite, laser doppler lontrophroresis, and measures of blood pressure including pulse wave velocity and pulse wave analysis.
  • A gastrointestinal and microbiology laboratory, with access to a category II laboratory for blood sampling and analysis following phlebotomy.

Support for Health Claims

There is increased awareness of the role of diet which, in addition to meeting the metabolic needs of individuals, can have beneficial physiological and psychological effects and can help reduce the risk of disease.

Food manufacturers have been quick to recognise this increased awareness by consumers, and the growing list of health claims in relation to food products has, in turn, come under considerable scrutiny from international legislative bodies in recent years.

One of the most important roles of the HISU is to perform rigorous scientific testing of potential health benefits associated with food products and dietary supplements. Additionally, the work of the HISU helps in the discovery of new health benefits.

Multidisciplinary Science

The HISU is located within the state-of-the-art Centre for Molecular Biosciences (CMB) of Ulster University, alongside NICHE's biochemistry and molecular biology facilities, where ongoing research areas include the role of diet in different types of cancer, heart disease, obesity and diabetes.

This close proximity enables close collaboration and understanding between scientists across the 'spectrum', from the laboratory bench to the human subject, enabling optimal quality in the design, execution and interpretation of diet/health-related intervention studies.

Courses Available

Phlebotomy Course (approved by the National Association of Phlebotomists)

This two day course in adult venepuncture integrates academic learning with practical application. Following the course, trainees will have up to three months to complete 30 successful draws with periodic assessment before they become certified.


The Clinical Translational Research and Innovation Centre (C-TRIC), a partner of NICHE, is based on the Altnagelvin Hospital campus and offers the unique opportunity for NICHE researchers to conduct active clinical research and trials. The locality has a stable and homogeneous population facilitating longitudinal and family based research studies.

Northern Ireland Clinical Research Facility

NICHE is also involved in the management of the Wellcome Trust-Wolfson Northern Ireland Clinical Research Facility in partnership with the Belfast HSC Trust, Queen's University Belfast and the Northern Ireland HSC R&D Division. This new facility enables NICHE researchers to interact directly with hospital patients as well as healthy volunteers, and is equipped with a range of state-of-the-art clinical equipment to further the development of clinical and translational research activity.


For further information please contact:

Dr Ruth Price, Clinical Trials Manager or
Dr Julie Sittlington, Scientific Assistant – HISU
Tel: +44 (0) 2870 124101