I am a DPhil student, working in the laboratory of Prof Roger Patient in the MRC Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine (MRC WIMM). My DPhil project focuses on the biology behind the generation of haematopoietic (blood) stem cells (HSC) during early embryogenesis. I am particularly interested in studying gene regulatory networks centred around the transcription factor, Runx1.
One of the promises of modern medicine is that if we understand how HSCs are generated during embryogenesis, it would be possible to generate them in vitro to treat diseases such as leukaemia; thus overcoming shortages of suitable cell sources and the need for immune-matching. Since blood development is conserved from humans down to fish, I use the zebrafish model for my research. Using a bacterial artificial chromosome (BAC) transgenesis strategy, I generated a novel reporter line that enables me to specifically isolate cells of the haemogenic endothelium (HE), the precursor population for HSCs. By combining fluorescence activated cell sorting (FACS) with RNA-sequencing and ATAC-sequencing (chromatin accessibility) technologies, I aimed to discover new important players involved in the transition from HE to mature HSCs. I am analysing potential target genes either for their expression pattern by in situ hybridisation or functionally by morpholino and CRISPR knock-down technologies. With this research project, I hope to decipher some of the aspects of the de novo generation of HSCs as it is happening in the embryo. This knowledge could eventually contribute to the generation of HSCs in culture for broader medical applications.
Before I came to Oxford, I did a BSc in Molecular Biology at the University of Münster and an MSc in Cell and Developmental Biology at the University of Heidelberg in Germany. During that time I gained expertise in a variety of molecular biology techniques.