Our research themes

Development and Stem Cells

Our goals are being achieved through a multidisciplinary approach spanning cell and molecular biology, imaging, physiology, human genetics, engineering and the pre-clinical testing of new therapeutic strategies.

Our strengths and foci lie in the following areas:

Stem cells and regeneration

We explore the cellular and molecular mechanisms involved in cell fate decisions, differentiation and tissue regeneration and the role of stem cell dysfunction in disease development. We also research:

  • Mechanisms of adult stem cell self-renewal and differentiation and how these change with disease and ageing
  • New molecular targets for the manipulation of adult stem cell function to develop better stem cell therapeutics
  • Tissue-specific stem cells such as those of the gut, thymus, kidney and prostate for regenerative medicine

Reproductive biology

We work to understand the developmental processes of oocytes and sperm, the origins of human infertility, and the consequences of poor gamete quality for offspring health. We explore:

  • The molecular bases of human male infertility and its relevance to health broadly
  • Mechanisms of maternal aging with a view towards improving the reproductive health of older women and the genetic mechanisms underlying polycystic ovary syndrome which is a major cause of female infertility
  • Molecular mechanisms underlying sex determination and disorders of sex determination
  • Pathways involved in the epigenetic modifications of the germ-line and early embryo/fetus as well as pathways through which in utero and early postnatal exposure, including premature birth, predispose an individual to adult disease.
  • Avenues for preserving fertility, particularly in pre-pubertal boys, girls and women with cancer and identifying non-invasive predictors of oocyte quality
  • Methods for diagnosing development disorders and  the causes of abnormalities in sex determination

Nephrology

Our research aims to gain a better understanding of how the kidney develops, the genetic causes of congenital kidney defects and elucidating what the responsible genes do during development. We aim to:

  • Determine the mechanisms underlying branching morphogenesis in the kidney
  • Understand how different genes act to regulate organ formation and the specification of nephron number – an important determinant of adult health
  • Determine how maternal behaviour affects kidney development in the unborn child
  • Partner with clinical collaborators to identify novel genes involved in kidney disease and to model these in vivo
  • Formulate stem cell therapies for kidney regeneration (see stem cells above)

Human development

We are focussed on the development of new approaches for the detection, prevention and treatment of adult and childhood diseases. On a broader time scale we are interested in the greater evolutionary context of human developmental processes. Our research aims to:

  • Integrate information from deep human evolutionary history to understand how particular traits have evolved and the impact of adaptation to environment/diet on these processes
  • Define the genetic and environmental mechanisms driving normal organ development (including of the lung, prostate, gut), and to understand how changes in these pathways lead to childhood or adult diseases