Information about the lab's research interests.
The past decade has seen a transformation in our understanding of the genetic basis of human disease due to the impact of high throughput DNA sequencing. An avalanche of new data has identified hundreds of genes that, when mutated, cause diseases as diverse as intellectual disability and cancer. While we know something about the function of many of the genes identified this way, we remain ignorant about why their malfunction leads to specific pathological changes. Filling this knowledge gap will be essential if we are to treat these conditions rationally. When the proteins encoded by these disease genes are categorised according likely function, a surprisingly large fraction turn out to be nuclear proteins involved in controlling gene expression via their effects on chromatin structure. Our research studies a small subset of these proteins in order to better understand how they might control where and when genes are expressed. By understanding the molecular mechanisms by which proteins of this type establish and maintain cell fate, we hope to illuminate the origins of specific human diseases.
We adopt a broad range of experimental and theoretical approaches, including genetics, cell biology and biochemistry. This breadth – from molecular to organismal levels – forces us to see biomedical issues from more than one perspective and keeps our research responsive. We benefit from being embedded within the Wellcome Centre for Cell Biology, which houses research groups studying the fundamental biology of cells and boasts state-of-the-art facilities. In addition, we are intimately involved in the Simons Initiative for the Developing Brain which investigates autism at the diverse levels, including molecules, cells, circuits as well as clinical medicine. The broad range of expertise in biology, medicine and other sciences, plus an open culture of collaboration makes the University of Edinburgh, an ideal setting for our work.
Research in a Nutshell
Adrian Bird, Buchanan Professor of Genetics, introduces the group's research in this one minute Research in a Nutshell video.