Development, Regeneration and Neurophysiology

Zebrafish head
Head of a two-day-old zebrafish, one of the key model organisms used in our research. The red stain highlights neurons in the developing central and peripheral nervous systems. Image credit: Stone Elworthy, Sarah Baxendale and Nick van Hateren.

Our research

We examine how a single cell can give rise to an entire organism, knowledge that helps us understand health and ageing, which is fundamental to the development of new medicines. We apply our knowledge to direct the differentiation of cells for regenerative medicine and disease-modelling applications, with a particular focus on the nervous system. We also investigate the mechanisms underpinning how sensory inputs are detected and processed by the nervous system in health and disease, with the aim to identify targets for gene-based therapeutic interventions.

The University of Sheffield has a long tradition in the study of developmental biology, neuroscience, stem cells, and regenerative medicine, with an international reputation in these fields. An important societal aim is to understand why some people live long and healthy lives, while others may suffer from chronic illness or degenerative conditions. Linked to this is the need to improve therapies for individuals with long-term debilitating conditions. Our research provides an exciting route towards achieving these goals.

Our developmental biologists study the fundamental genetic and cellular mechanisms that drive tissue and organ formation in the developing embryo. We work on a range of model organisms, including the fruit fly, zebrafish and chick. Using approaches in single cell biology, real-time imaging and mathematical modelling, we are uncovering the programmes that support embryonic patterning and morphogenesis, together with lifelong tissue homeostasis, prerequisites to a healthy adult life. 

Our stem cell and regenerative medicine researchers study genetic stability and the cell fate decisions made by stem cells, harnessing this knowledge to generate cell types that could be used for cell-based regenerative medicine therapies for a range of disease conditions. Sophisticated transgenic approaches in model organisms, together with the use of stem-cell-derived human organoids, provide powerful routes to novel drug discovery.

Our internationally recognised strengths in neurophysiology extend from development of the nervous system and neuronal cell biology through to sensory neurophysiology and computational modelling. We have a special focus on the auditory, vestibular, visual and olfactory systems, bringing together internationally leading experts in physiology, stem cell biology, bioinformatics and genetics. We also seek to understand both the sensing and alleviation of chronic pain, and to develop effective model systems for complex behavioural disorders such as stress and anxiety.

Our success is founded on excellent research income, state-of-the-art facilities, and interdisciplinary collaborations with academic and industrial partners in local, national and international Centres of Excellence. 

Research highlights

Recent grant awards

  • Dr Ivana Barbaric (School of Biosciences) and Dr Kevin Chalut (Co-I, University of Cambridge) have been awarded an MRC grant (£670k total; £500k to Dr Barbaric) to study the role of mechanosensing in the selective advantage of genetically variant human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs).
  • Dr Ivana Barbaric (PI, School of Biosciences) and Dr Andrew Grierson (Co-I, SiTRaN) have been awarded funding from Muscular Dystrophy UK (£150k) for their work on Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease. Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease (CMT) is a group of inherited progressive conditions causing motor and sensory neuropathies, resulting in muscle wastage, mobility issues and pain. In this project, researchers will utilise their previously-developed stem cell-based model of CMT (type 2A) to search for new therapeutic leads.


For further information and research opportunities, please see the staff page of individual researchers below:

Research centres and institutes

Our research in development, regeneration and neurophysiology is supported by and feeds into the following flagship research institutes.

Our staff are also affiliated to the following Research Centres:

Study opportunities

    Flagship institutes

    The University’s four flagship institutes bring together our key strengths to tackle global issues, turning interdisciplinary and translational research into real-world solutions.