Dr Ivana Barbaric

Ivana Barbaric

Lecturer in Stem Cell Biology
Department of Biomedical Science
The University of Sheffield
Western Bank
Sheffield S10 2TN
United Kingdom

Telephone: +44(0) 114 222 3645
Room: E225b Alfred Denny building
Email: i.barbaric@sheffield.ac.uk

Centre for Stem Cell Biology

Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine

Brief career history

  • 2014–present: Lecturer in Stem Cell Biology, Centre for Stem Cell Biology, Department of Biomedical Science, University of Sheffield.
  • 2013–2014: Research Fellow, Department of Materials Science and Tissue Engineering, University of Sheffield.
  • 2008–2013: Post-doctoral Research Associate, Department of Biomedical Science, University of Sheffield. Research Advisor: Professor Peter Andrews.
  • 2006–2008: Post-doctoral Research Associate, Department of Biomedical Science, University. Research Advisor: Professor Peter Andrews.
  • 2002–2006: Wolfson College, University of Oxford. Research Advisor: Professor Stephen Brown.
  • 2001–2002: Research Assistant, R&D, Pliva Pharmaceuticals, Zagreb, Croatia.
  • 2000–2001: Honours student, Max-Planck Institute for Immunobiology, Freiburg, Germany. Research Advisors: Professor Davor Solter and Dr Grace Wei.
  • 1996–2001: Bachelor of Science with Distinction and First Class Honours, University of Zagreb, Croatia.

Research interests

My lab focuses on understanding the mechanisms that control pluripotent stem cell self-renewal and commitment to differentiation. In particular, we investigate the molecular basis of aneuploidy in hPSCs and study how such genetic changes may perturb the normal control of stem cell fate and enhance their ability to grow in culture.

Professional activities

  • Fellow of The Higher Education Academy (FHEA)
  • Executive Editor of Biochemistry and Biophysics Reports (Elsevier)
  • Committee Member of EuroStem Cell Workpackage 6
  • Organiser of the 1st Workshop on High Content Screening of Stem Cells, Sheffield, April 2014
  • Co-organiser of the Sheffield Stem Cell Club meetings.

Full publications


Stem Cell Biology and Engineering

Our research is focused on investigating the causes and consequences of genetic changes in human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs), and studying how signals from the stem cells microenvironment affect their fate decisions, patterning and how inappropriate signals lead to genetic changes that mimic cancer. Assurance of genetic stability of hPSCs is pivotal for their eventual safe use in regenerative medicine, but hPSCs can adapt to life in culture by acquiring non-random genetic changes that render them more robust and easier to grow, akin to cancer cells. In our work we are elucidating the molecular mechanisms that underlie the maintenance of the integrity of the hPSC genome, and how disruption of these mechanisms can lead to undesired genetic changes. The reduction of selection pressures on hPSCs in vitro requires an understanding of the native stem cell microenvironment and recapitulating it in culture. Using interdisciplinary approaches, we are creating artificial stem cell niches to mimic embryogenesis in vitro.

In a Royal Society-funded project, we are using the controlled delivery of morphogens to study signalling that underlies the primitive streak patterning from hPSCs. In a Sheffield Science Gateway-funded project we are collaborating with National Physics Laboratory and Kirkstall Ltd. on creating synthetic polymer scaffolds to identify mechanical and chemical cues that influence stem cell fate decisions. This research may offer new routes to engineering stem cell niches and understanding mechanisms that influence stem cell fate decision and patterning.

Human pluripotent stem cells have the potential to create all of the cell types within the body. Therefore, they may provide a useful source of cells for cellular therapies. However, the main prerequisite for such applications is an efficient and reproducible production of specialised cell types from stem cells and ensuring that they are safe to use in therapies. Our work aims to define the molecular mechanisms and external cues that govern stem cell fates as a necessary step towards their safe and reliable clinical use.



Teaching experience

Postgraduate Certificate in Learning and Teaching from the University of Sheffield (Fellow of The Higher Education Academy, FHEA)

Undergraduate and postgraduate taught modules:

Level 1:

  • BMS109 Laboratory Skills in BMS

Level 3:

  • BMS354 Tissue Engineering in Biomedical Science (Coordinator)
  • BMS349 Extended Biomedical Sciences Library Project
  • BMS369 Laboratory Research Project
  • BMS382 Stem Cell Biology

Masters (MSc):

  • BMS6398 Tissue Engineering in Biomedical Science (Coordinator)
  • BMS6056 Stem Cell Biology

Postgraduate PhD Opportunity

Integrity of mitochondrial DNA in human pluripotent stem cells and implications for regenerative medicine

Human Pluripotent Stem Cells (hPSCs) have the ability to produce cells of all tissues within the body. They can provide a valuable tool for modelling human disease, as well as a potential source of differentiated cells for use in regenerative medicine and drug discovery. In order to fulfil the therapeutic potential of hPSCs it is important to ensure their genome is free of any potentially deleterious mutations that could either impair the function of the hPSC-derived differentiated derivatives or give rise to malignant phenotypes upon transplantation in vivo. Recurrent genetic changes have been noted in the nuclear genome of hPSCs that appear to confer selective growth advantage to the variant cells. Less understood is the appearance and role of mutations in the mitochondrial genome of hPSCs.

This project will focus on investigating the extent of mitochondrial DNA instability, molecular mechanisms that underpin mutation generation and the functional consequences of the mutations on hPSC phenotype and behaviour. Techniques will include a range of molecular and cellular biology methods, including hPSC culture, genetic manipulation of hPSC using CRISPR/Cas9, flow cytometry and live cell imaging.

For further information about this project and how to apply, see our PhD Opportunities page:

PhD Opportunities

Selected publications

Journal articles