Cancer and Haematology
- Genetic dissection of blood cell production and function
- Regulation of cytokine action
- Transcription factors and development
Our research focuses on the cells of the blood. We strive to understand how these cells are made and how they function in healthy individuals as well as in illnesses of the blood such as leukaemias and autoimmune diseases. The comparison between healthy and diseased blood not only provides insight into how disease develops but also identifies opportunities to develop new strategies to combat illness.
Our long-term research goal is to provide better management and treatments for diseases of blood cells, such as the leukaemias, and inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. The blood is a dynamic and complex tissue that continually replenishes itself throughout life. This process is coordinated by haemopoietic stem cells, rare residents of the bone marrow that have the unique ability to self-renew as well as give rise to the multiple functional blood cells, including the infection fighting white cells, the red cells that transport oxygen and the platelets that ensure proper blood clotting. We take a multidisciplinary approach combining genetics, cell and molecular biology, biochemistry and whole animal physiology to discover the molecular regulators that control the production and function of these cells in health and to explore how these processes go awry in disease. Through clinical and biotechnology links, we aim to maximise the impact of these discoveries for human health.
Our functional genomics program, an ongoing collaboration with the Molecular Medicine Division, continues to exploit large-scale mutagenesis screens in the mouse and zebrafish for discovery of genes regulating blood cells. Recent discoveries include establishing key roles for the epigenetic regulator Suz12 and the transcription factor Erg in haemopoietic stem cell function, and identification of a novel kinase-like gene, mutation of which improves platelet counts in mice with a congenital deficiency in platelet production.
Cytokines, the blood cell hormones, control the production and function of blood cells and have proven clinically effective in patients with low numbers of white cells. Our long-standing program to study the actions of cytokines, their cell surface receptors, and the intracellular pathways they activate, has recently focused on the Suppressors of Cytokine Signalling (SOCS) protein family, which control cytokine responses, thereby preventing damage associated with excessive cytokine action. Our recent studies include detailing the specific actions of SOCS3 to control responses to G-CSF and IL-6 and exploring the roles of SOCS proteins in models of asthma and other inflammatory diseases.
Professor Nick Nicola (Joint Division Head)
Professor Warren Alexander (Joint Division Head)