Dr Denis Headon

Group Leader/Senior Research Fellow


My group is interested in the genetic basis of variation in hair, feathers and associated skin structures, and how these gene variants influence embryonic development. My research career started in biomedical genetics with identification of genes underlying ectodermal dysplasia conditions – an area of ongoing activity. My interests then shifted to include addressing how those genes might play a role in defining pattern formation in the skin. I joined The Roslin Institute in 2008 to study animal and human genetics, and to define how the genetic code is interpreted to create the shape and structure of the body.

Research summary

Development, maintenance and repair of the skin and its appendages.

Current research interests

Animals are complex beasts. They display a fantastic array of structures from horns to hair, feathers to fur. Animals look very different from one another and go about their business in very different ways, but the process of development links them together because for every animal, or indeed every organism, the journey to sophisticated adult begins with a single cell which divides, develops and differentiates according to a pre-programmed plan. Studying that plan tells us not only how a ball of cells decides that an arm will be an arm and not antennae, but can provide insights into the development of traits in species important to agriculture, such as wool in sheep and feathers in chickens.

View all 79 publications on Research Explorer