Dr Liu has had an independent group at King’s College London since 2007, where she is currently Reader in Signalling and Development. Throughout her career she has been a developmental biologist, initially focusing on neural crest cells and embryogenesis with a more recent interest in the re-use of developmental programmes in the repair and regeneration of adult structures.
Before coming to King’s, she was a Regenerative Medicine Fellow at Stanford University where she worked with Prof Michael Longaker and Prof Gerald Crabtree. Her PhD studies were in Prof Richard Harland’s lab at the University of California, Berkeley. Her initial introduction to biology was in Prof Argiris Efstratiadis’ lab at Columbia University where she was a technician for several years before going to graduate school.
Dr Liu's lab focuses on the development of the neural crest cell population. Undifferentiated neural crest cells undergo epithelial-mesenchymal transformations (EMT), migrate from the neural tube, and populate distant destinations. These cells display incredible plasticity, giving rise to diverse tissues ranging from bone and cartilage to adipocytes and neurons. Persistence of this multipotent population into adults may reflect the important contributions of the neural crest lineage to development, homeostasis and repair of vertebrate organs.
Their research makes use of multiple animal models, including frog, mouse, chick and humans. They also bring together biology and chemistry, designing new tools to study development and differentiation over time. Current projects include work on mammalian neural crest stem cells, migratory neural crest, contributions of the neural crest to head structures, and human craniofacial anomalies.