We have established a UK laboratory to utilise the planarian model system. More recently we have become interested in a broader range of regenerative animals as we think we can learn a lot of different secrets from animals with adult stem cells. Currently in addition to working with planarians we are working with the amphipod crustacean Parhyale hawaienis.
Planarians are a fantastic system in which study stem cell biology, not least because they have so many of them and they are accessible to molecular approaches. As new techniques are developed and existing approaches improved the detail with which we can study planarian pluripotent stem cells se improves. We can, for example, use the planarian stem cell system to identify new genes required or controlling proliferation, differentiation and migration, all processes of great relevance to many human disease processes particularly cancer.
Much of our research is now directed at understanding the balance between regeneration and tissue homeostasis and if planarians are a good model to inform us about processes that go wrong during the development of cancer. For this we need to understand the mechanisms and signals that control regeneration, the gene regulatory networks that control stem cell dynamics and the changes in these processes that lead loss of proliferative control, failures to differentiate and control cell migration.
MA Natural Sciences, University of Cambridge
PhD University of Edinburgh
Associate Professor in Genetics, Tutorial Fellow at Lady Margaret Hall, University of of Oxford, UK 2012-current