Research expertise at the Bateson Centre

Life course researchTo understand lifecourse biology requires us to understand how the integration of processes at different scales leads to robust biological outcomes. These would include the dramatic reproducibility of organism development and the restoration of tissue homeostasis by repair and remodelling. This multidisciplinary field combines developmental and stem cell biology with translational biomedicine.

Our research focus enables us to understand how individual molecular interactions govern the properties and behaviour of cells, how cell-cell interactions give rise to functional tissues, and how different tissues interact in the context of the whole organism in health and disease. To do this we make use of animal models to study cells in their proper environment, and have built up expertise in in vivo imaging to study in real time and at high resolution the dynamic behaviour of molecules, cells and tissues in the living body throughout life.

Basic Scientists and Clinicians from the Faculty of Science and the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health transcend departmental boundaries to exploit synergies between their complementary expertise within the theme of Lifecourse Biology.

Our strengths in this area have attracted a large number of junior fellows to Sheffield, who bring prestigious external fellowships, and we are intent on nurturing this "youth team" into highly successful independent scientists.

Maintaining health

Principal Investigators (PIs) in the Centre take advantage of a wide range of tractable animal model systems - Drosophila, zebrafish, chick, mouse and Dictyostelium. At one end of our research spectrum we use these organisms to examine growth, differentiation and morphogenesis in real time, asking how tissues are formed from dividing and migrating cells and how cells are organised in 2D planes or 3D structures.

We investigate how resident stem cells enable the body to remodel and adapt to changes over the lifespan, and examine how old tissue is broken down to enable new tissue to grow, and the dual role of phagocytes in tissue plasticity and host defence. Many aspects of our work have a strong emphasis on understanding molecular and cellular mechanisms and greatly benefit from interactions with Centre for Membrane Interactions and Dynamics (CMIAD).

The important role of mechanical forces in morphogenesis and cell behaviour is leading to increased interactions with physical scientists and engineers with interests in the growing field of mechanobiology; additionally a number of groups are adopting computational modelling as a tool to understand how myriad individual molecular and cellular interactions lead to the emergence of form and cell behaviours.

Treating disease

At the other end of our research spectrum we study disease, degeneration and decline, all of which occur when the mechanisms which maintain homeostatic balance within the body are disrupted. We explore medical problems that pose major health burdens to our society, including nervous and musculoskeletal disorders cardiovascular disease, chronic inflammatory diseases and cancer.

There is a growing awareness that chronic diseases are the biological consequences of adverse interactions between genetically-determined disease susceptibilities and risk-modifying environmental factors. The simple model organisms that we use provide remarkably powerful tools to investigate these pathogenetic mechanisms, by visualising biological change, including repair and regeneration, in real time within the body, and to identify and then characterise the roles that different genes, proteins and cells play in these processes.

To support these activities, The University has world-class Zebrafish aquaria and Drosophila vivaria and state-of-the-art microscopy including two new LightSheet microscopes (BBSRC- and BHF-funded) as well as two MRC-funded Super-Resolution microscopes.

Our Small Molecule Screening Unit provides a platform on which to examine cellular dysregulation and the means to screen for small molecules that can modulate cellular behaviours in model organisms. The insights obtained from these
screens act as a springboard to develop new therapies for diseases.