Life Sciences Research for Lifelong Health



How interaction with the environment can influence genes and genetic inheritance

Cells undergoing cytokinesis What is epigenetics?

The activity of our genes is determined by more than their DNA sequence alone. Active and silent genes are distinguished by epigenetic marks – chemical tags that are added to the DNA or to the proteins around which the DNA is organised on chromosomes.

All cells in the body are derived from stem cells, which have the unique ability of being able to give rise to any cell type.

Epigenetic marks play important roles in defining different cell types in the body and can be influenced by environmental and nutritional factors.

Blastocysts squareWhy is it important?

We are particularly interested in the epigenomes of the stem cells that contribute to, and are present in, the early embryo.

Using these cells we can uncover how epigenetic information affects the function of important organs such as the placenta, the heart, or the brain and behaviour throughout life. It is known that epigenetic marks decline during the ageing process.

Our research will provide approaches by which epigenetics can be manipulated in cells and organisms, potentially leading to enhanced stem cells and applications in regenerative medicine and healthy ageing.

Stained oocyteWhat is our research?

Using state-of-the-art technology, most of which we have developed ourselves, we are performing analyses to study the epigenome and gene expression patterns of mammals during embryonic development. This information allows us to unravel how epigenetic marks influence development.

We are defining signalling pathways in stem cells that induce reprogramming of the epigenome on a large scale. Additionally, we are studying the enzymes that regulate the epigenome together with factors such as RNA that can help to target specific epigenetic marks.

Epigenetics Feature

Our 2016 Annual Research Report includes feature articles highligting some of the themes that each research programme is working on. The Epigenetics feature "Unlocking the secrets of early development", looks at the role of epigenetics in early development and the contributions that it could make to regenerative medicine.

"Every cell type in our body results from a different reading of the same genome. Over the past 30 years, scientists have learned that our genes are controlled by epigenetics – a combination of processes that switch genes on and off without altering the DNA sequence itself. But much of epigenetics remains a mystery..." continue reading


Placenta defects key factor in prenatal deaths

Almost 70% of genes linked to prenatal death could affect the placenta

Of 103 mutations that lead to prenatal death in mice, 68% caused…


Making new contacts: Super-enhancers in changing cells

Changing DNA organisation changes gene activity between cell types

Super-enhancers contact different genes in different cell types


Genes for age-linked brain deterioration identified

One gene led to premature cell ageing and could reveal ways to slow brain ageing

A group of 250 genes contribute to aging in brain stem cells



Research Impact

2 Industrial Research Collaborations

2 CASE PhD Studentships

2 Formal Industrial Consultancy Agreements

3 New IP Licence Agreements

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