Professor Marysia Placzek

Marysia Placzek

Professor in Developmental Neurobiology
Department of Biomedical Science
The University of Sheffield
Western Bank
Sheffield S10 2TN
United Kingdom

Room: D18b Firth Court
Telephone: +44 (0) 114 222 2353

Patterning & Morphogenesis Bateson Centre

NeuroscienceStem Cells and Regenerative Medicine

Developmental Biology


Brief career history

  • 2014-2015 Director of the Bateson Centre (formerly, The MRC Centre for Developmental and Biomedical Genetics) at the University of Sheffield .
  • 2009-2014 Acting Director, MRC Centre for Developmental and Biomedical Genetics
  • 2007-2009 Deputy Director, MRC Centre for Developmental and Biomedical Genetics
  • 1999-present: Professor in Developmental Neurobiology, University of Sheffield.
  • 1997-1999: Senior Lecturer, University of Sheffield.
  • 1992-1997: Scientific Staff, National Institute of Medical Research, London.
  • 1983-1987: Post-doctoral fellow, Columbia University, New York. Research Advisor: Dr Jane Dodd.
  • 1983-1987: PhD. Imperial Cancer Research Fund and Imperial College, London. Research Advisor: Dr Gordon Peters.
  • 1979-1983: Bsc, University of Edinburgh.

Research interests

We study how the hypothalamus of the brain is formed in the embryo

In development,  hypothalamic nerves and glia are built in space and time with an order and precision that leads ultimately to the integrated assembly of the brain-body axis. The proper development of the hypothalamus is therefore vital to ensure that throughout life, brain and body function in perfect harmony and balance. Our research focuses on the stem and progenitor cells that build the hypothalamus. Our goal is to characterise the molecular networks involved in hypothalamic development, and determine how they work to build and maintain the different cells of the hypothalamus. Our work will contribute to understanding the importance of the hypothalamus to robust long-term health and will shed light onto diseases and disruptions of homeostasis.

Professional activities

  • Scientific Advisory Board member Roslin Institute (2008-2011)
  • 2012: MRC Suffrage Science Heirloom Recipient
  • 2013-present: External Examiner, Dept. Zoology Cambridge
  • 2015: MRC Doctoral Training Partnership Panel Member

Full publications


Building the hypothalamus through life

My research focuses on the development of the hypothalamus and on its cellular plasticity over the lifecourse.

The functions of the hypothalamus in mediating homeostasis are well-known. By contrast, little is understood of how hypothalamic cells form in development. This knowledge is important, because early indications suggest that deregulation of developmental programmes may underlie complex human pathological conditions, including stress and eating disorders. Our goal is therefore to understand how the hypothalamus develops in the embryo and how the proper embryonic assembly of the hypothalamus holds the key to robust adult function. We focus in particular on five key areas:

  • The role of the prechordal mesoderm and the importance of its dynamic cellular and signalling properties to induction of a multipotent embryonic hypothalamic progenitor.
  • The characterisation of the multipotent embryonic hypothalamic progenitor, in particular identification of the molecular and cellular cues that maintain a multipotent hypothalamic progenitor, or that promote its differentiation to different sets of hypothalamic neurons and glia, including infundibular glia.
  • The cellular and molecular events that underlie the integrated assembly of the hypothalamo-pituitary neuraxis.
  • The characterization of stem/progenitor-like tanycytes in the adult hypothalamus
  • The importance of appropriate hypothalamic assembly to the stress-regulatory pathway and robust adult behaviour and health.

We use a range of animal model systems (chick, mouse, zebrafish) and combine in vivo and ex vivo approaches with imaging, transgenic, gain-and loss-of-function approaches to characterise how stem/progenitor cells renew, or differentiate in response to local and systemic signals.

Figure 1



Undergraduate and postgraduate taught modules


  • BMS243/247 Stem Cells
  • BMS242/243 Principles of Developmental Biology
  • BMS336 Modelling Human Disease and Dysfunction (Co-ordinator)
  • Level 3 Practical and Dissertation Modules

Masters (MSc):

  • BMS6336  Modelling Human Disease and Dysfunction (Coordinator)

Selected publications

Journal articles