Edinburgh Cancer Research

Elaine Dzierzak (Affiliate)

Laboratory for Haematological Regeneration

E.Dzierzak - PI Image
Professor Elaine Dzierzak - Professor of Haematological Regeneration

Research in a Nutshell

The incidence of blood disorders is increasing as the aging population grows and is at high risk for the development of leukemia and blood-related disorders. Together, these patient groups present a large burden on the medical care system. Donor bone marrow and cord blood hematopoietic stem cells (HSC) for clinical transplantations are limiting and not wholly successful due to the immune rejection of donor cells. Thus, new sources of HSCs are needed for treatments and also fundamental research on HSC biology. Our research focuses on how the first HSCs in mammalian embryos are generated during embryonic development. We have changed the dogma on the yolk sac origins of HSCs, and showed that the first HSCs are made from specialized endothelial cells in the aorta during only a short time in the embryo. Mouse and embryonic stem cell models show that at least three waves of hematopoietic generation occur, with only the third wave producing the permanent robust adult hematopoietic system. Our transcriptomic and genetic, and vital imaging studies of emerging HSCs have identified pivotal molecular regulators of this unique process and these are being used to attempt programming/reprogramming of patient-specific cells to clinically relevant HSCs. 


Research Programme




Elaine Dzierzak

Principal Investigator and Professor of Haematological Regeneration
Samanta Mariani Postdoctoral Fellow
Zhuan Li Postdoctoral Fellow
Xabier Cortes-Lavaud Postdoctoral Fellow
Roger Ronn Postdoctoral Fellow
Mari-Liis Kauts PhD student
Antonio Maglitto PhD student
Chris S. Vink Lab Manager
Carmen Rodriguez Seoane Research Assistant
Karen Colvin Personal Assistant




  • Kamil Kranc, U of Edinburgh
  • Katrin Ottersbach, U of Edinburgh
  • Bertie Gottgens, Cambridge U
  • Anna Bigas, Barcelona, SP
  • Nancy Speck, U of Pennsylvania

Partners and Funders (current)

  • ERC Advanced Grant Blood regeneration: de novo development of human hematopoietic stem cells Dzierzak-PI/01/01/15 – 31/12/19/1.9M
  • ZonMW Netherlands TOP Project Grant: Production of transplantable HSCs from novel cell sources: differentiation and genetic re/programming/Dzierzak-PI/01/04/12 – 30/08/16/£600K
  • Landsteiner Society for Blood Research (LSBR): The effects of Hypoxia-inducible factor 1alpha on the development of hemogenic endothelium, hematopoietic stem cells and the supportive microenvironment/Dzierzak-PI/01/01/12 – 31/12/16/£400K

Scientific Themes

Haematopoietic stem cell generation, embryonic haematopoiesis, development, haematopoietic niches, haematopoietic transcription factors, ES/iPS cell haematopoietic differentiation

Technology Expertise

Mouse gene deletion and reporter models, vital and static imaging of embryos, haematopoietic cultures, in vivo transplantation, haematopoietic lineage differentiation analyses, ES/iPS cell haematopoietic differentiation cultures