The Wardle Group
Group leader: Dr Fiona Wardle
Transcriptional regulation during early vertebrate development
We are interested in the networks of gene regulation that control tissue and organ formation in the early vertebrate embryo. The correct regulation of gene activation and repression is crucial both for cell types to become established during embryonic development and for on-going differentiation of stem cells in the adult. Conversely, deregulation of gene expression may lead to cancerous changes and other diseases. Understanding the programs that control gene expression and underlie cell differentiation is thus central to many aspects of human health.
Our main focus is on gene regulation during the formation of mesoderm and endoderm – two basic cell types that form in the early embryo. Cells specified as mesoderm at early stages will go on to form tissues such as blood, skeletal muscle, cardiac muscle, cartilage and bone, whereas endoderm cells will form liver, lung, pancreas and gut. By identifying the programs of gene expression that lead to the formation of these cells types we hope to be able to recapitulate them in the lab and generate cells that could be used for repair and replacement of damaged tissues in humans. Recently we have also begun to look at what happens when transcription is deregulated, for instance in cancer.
We use a combination of approaches to study gene regulation during cell differentiation including experimental embryology, molecular biology, genomics, proteomics and computational biology in a variety of systems including zebrafish, mammalian stem cells and cancer cells.