Dr Matthew Towers

School of Biosciences

Reader of Developmental Biology

Wellcome Senior Fellow in Basic Biomedical Science

+44 114 222 4697

Full contact details

Dr Matthew Towers
School of Biosciences
Firth Court
Western Bank
S10 2TN
  • 2017-present: Reader of Developmental Biology, University of Sheffield
  • 2017- present: Wellcome Trust Senior Fellow, University of Sheffield
  • 2011-2016: MRC Career Development Fellow, University of Sheffield
  • 2010-2011: Independent researcher, University of Sheffield
  • 2007-2010: Postdoctoral researcher, University of Bath
  • 2005-2007: Postdoctoral researcher, University of Dundee
  • 2003-2004: Research assistant, University of East Anglia, Norwich
  • 1998-2003: PhD, John Innes Centre, Norwich
  • 1995-1998: BSc Genetics, University of Leeds
Research interests

Vertebrate limb development

Lay summary

We are interested in how complex structures are correctly formed in the body. The crucial events that control how we develop occur during the earliest stages of life in the embryo. In particular, our research is centred on how limbs develop and we mostly work on chicken embryos because we can look directly at how they develop by opening a small window in the egg.

We want to understand how cells divide for the correct number of times in order to generate correctly patterned limbs. This research is important because it can give insights into the mechanisms that cause cells to lose control of cell division and turn into cancerous tumours. In addition, by revealing how digits develop, we can use this knowledge to understand the causes of birth defects that affect the limb and other structures in the body.

Technical summary

Understanding how embryonic development is timed and scaled remains one of the most important questions in biology. Knowledge of this will inform many areas of embryonic patterning and will also have implications for stem cell development, regenerative biology and clinical disorders.

A major reason why this problem remains unanswered is that it is extremely difficult to understand whether the behaviour of a cell is determined intrinsically or by extrinsic signals in vivo. In our recent publications, we have shown that intrinsic timing mechanisms play a crucial role in chick limb patterning (Chinnaiya et al., Nat Comm 2014) (Saiz-Lopez et al., Nat Comm 2015). We have demonstrated this by coupling embryological techniques with modern molecular analyses in the chick limb, which is a classical developmental model.

At present the questions we are focussing on are:

  1. Do cell cycle regulators form the basis of intrinsic timers?
  2. How are intrinsic timers integrated with extrinsic signals to control growth and patterning and is developmental time reversible?
  3. How do intrinsic timers and extrinsic signals scale species-specific development?
  4. Role of cell cycle regulators in hypothalamic patterning (with Prof. Marysia Placzek).

Show: Featured publications All publications

Journal articles

All publications

Journal articles


Conference proceedings papers


Research group

Current lab members

  • Connie Rich
  • Holly Stainton
  • Lara Busby
  • Aragorn Jones
Professional activities and memberships
  • F1000 - faculty member in pattern formation
  • Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellowship Award