MRC Human Genetics Unit
Medical Research Council Human Genetics Unit

Richard Meehan Research Group

Epigenetic Mechanisms in Development and Disease

Professor Richard Meehan

Research in a Nutshell 

Each individual is born with the same unique set of genes in almost every cell in their body, which act as an instruction manual for setting up embryo development and ultimately determining how the derived distinct cell types in an adult function. Genes influence factors such as hair colour, gender, interactions with the surrounding environment and disease susceptibility. They also determine body plan, tissue types and responses to chemical exposure. As every cell in the body has essentially the same set of genes or ‘instructions’, how do cells exhibit and maintain specificity so that genes  explicitly function in either brain or muscle cells? Part of the answer may be linked with a process called epigenetics. In broad terms, epigenetics is concerned with alterations in phenotype due to changes in cellular properties that are inherited, but do not represent an alteration in DNA sequence. From a developmental standpoint, it is associated with how a fertilized totipotent zygote progresses, via a series of developmental transformations and inductive processes, into a multicellular embryo and eventually an adult. Within this description is the notion that cellular plasticity is lost (to differing extents) as development proceeds into adult life. In our group we study epigenetic processes and their relevance to gene regulation in development and disease.


Research Programme


R.Meehan group


Professor Richard Meehan Group Leader
Dr Donncha Dunican  Research Scientist
Dr John Thomson  Research Scientist
Kathryn Mclaughlin Research Assistant
Heidi Mjoseng   Research Scientist
Dr Leanne Duthie PhD Student
Ailisa Revuelta  PhD Student



  • Dr Sari Pennings (QMRI Edinburgh)

  • Dr Mandy Drake (QMRI, Edinburgh)

  • Professor C Roland Wolf (University of Dundee)

  • Professor Jonathan Moggs (Novartis, Basel)

  • Professor Peter Adams (Beatson Institute Glasgow)

  • Dr Tom Burdon (Roslin Institute)

  • Dr Colm Nestor (Linköping University)

Partners and Funders

  • MRC


Scientific Themes

Epigenetics, DNA methylation, transcriptional control, chromatin organisation, Polycomb, Reservoir CpG islands, stem and germ cell development, 5hydroxymethylcytosin

Technology Expertise

Expression analysis, Mapping DNA and histone modifications, DIP-sequencing, epigenetic bioinformatic analysis, stem cell culturing