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Our history

Genetics has a strong history at King's dating back to the 1950s when Paul Polani discovered the genetic basis of Turner’s syndrome. In its current configuration, the Department is part of the School of Basic & MEdical Biosciences. 

When first established in 1987, the Department of Medical and Molecular Genetics had evolved from its origins as the Paediactric Research Unit, set up by Paul Polani in 1960. In 2004, it became known as the Division of Genetics and Molecular Medicine and expanded to include the St John's Institute of Dermatology, which can be traced back to the St John's Hospital for Diseases of the Skin, founded by John Laws Milton in 1834. The Twin Research Unit joined the Division in 2006. This had been established in 1992 with a focus on the incidence of rheumatological disease in identical twins and now has the most clinically detailed twin registry in the world. In 2012, the Centre for Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine joined the department. In 2017, the Department formed part of the School of Basic & Medical Biosciences alongside the Centre for Stem Cells & Regenerative Medicine, the Centre for Human & Applied Physiological Sciences, the Randall Centre for Cell & Molecular Biophysics and St John's Institute of Dermatology.  

Over the years the Department has made significant contributions to the understanding of a wide range of human genetic disease including Huntington's disease, sickle cell anaemia, acute promyelocytic leukaemia, breast cancer, Fanconi’s anaemia, Crohn's disease, osteoarthritis, cardiovascular disease, psoriasis and epidermolysis bullosa.

Recent developments in sequencing technologies have led to exciting new approaches to understanding the human genome, which we are now able to examine in far greater detail than ever before. The Department has been at the forefront of these exciting developments and whole exome sequencing has already led to the identification of causative mutations for several rare genetic disorders including Hajdu-Cheny syndrome and Hidradenitis Suppurativa. This technology is now being used to understand the genetics of more complex disorders and to examine both the genetic and epigenetic basis of gene regulation. Within the Division, stem cell therapy has recently been developed for epidermolysis bullosa, a research direction that will be greatly enhanced by the proximity of the King’s Centre for Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine.



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