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We are a group of scientists collectively interested in regeneration and ageing, the interplay between these three two research areas and how both are dependent on the activities of adult stem cells.  We are utilising relatively "new model organsisms", all of them animals that are highly regenerative because they utilise adult stem cells. Some of these animals may be even be able to avoid ageing altogether and be effectively immortal (Note, this doesn't mean they can't die, it just means they don't die as a result of getting old).

We have worked with the planarian Schmidtea mediterranea as our primary model system, and more recently we have started to look at other closely and more distantly related flatworms. We are also interested in other existing and potentially novel models of animal regeneration among invertebrate animals.

We have decided that as scientists substantively (or often just potentially) funded by public money and charitable sources we should be engaging the public as often as possible.  So we now have a Website -and Blog.

The New Hope is that lab members can share their interests and thoughts about their research but also about broader scientific issues relevant to our work; including ongoing research in their field, recent exciting results, events or meetings and even their frustrations and celebrations while working in the lab!

Our aim is to make our posts as accessible as possible to as many people as possible, dependent on their intended audience. Bear in mind though that science can be complicated so occasionally some posts that are dealing with  a very specific topic might be diffciult for non-experts (or experts to follow). In fact we envisage not always understanding each other's posts. But the great things is that because this is a dynamic website - and Blog, anyone can leave a comment and get involved! So if you don't understand something you can always just ask!

  Lab News   Recent Blog Entries

Thursday, 21 November 2013 at 11:56 am

The conference took place during the last days of October 2013 at the Genome Campus in Hinxton, near Cambridge. The title of the conference “Regenerative Medicine: From Biology to therapy” could also have been the title of the opening lecture by Sir John Gurdon. He outlined and commented on different reprogramming strategies of somatic cells into a pluri- or totipotent state. He started with his own work on SCNT which is the transfer a somatic nucleus into an Oocyte. Factors in the oocyte can remodel the epigenetic landscape of the somatic nucleus in a way that it acquires totipotency once again. This work, together with the approach that Yamanaka identified in 2006 to reprogram somatic cells to pluripotency by transduction of 4 specific transcription factors now forms a strong basis for basic biomedical research and therapeutic strategies. It was a really nice talk, in which he demonstrated with a variety of examples how this technique can be used to model human disease by in vitro models derived from patient iPSC lines.

Saturday, 19 October 2013 at 12:45 am

The lab is very proud to announce that our colleague Ellen Aboukhatwa has been awarded a prize for her "Transfer talk" in the Department of Zoology here in Oxford. CONGRATULATIONS!

Ellen presented her work on developing planarians as a model to study adult stem cell behaviours relevant to cancer and tumorgenesis.

Saturday, 19 October 2013 at 12:34 am

Finally after what seems the longest time the lab has published our paper on the single methyl biding domain (MBD) protein in the genome of the planarian Schmidtea mediterranea. This paper represents a lot of work by a lot of different people in the lab and by collaborators, but mainly by two graduate students Dr Priscilla Lo and Dr Farah Jaber-Hijazi.

This is an exciting paper as it appears that the function of the planarian MBD maybe analagous the function of MBD3 in regulating pluripotency in mice. Loss of MBD interupts the ability of pluripotent planarian stem cells to make many cell types, but not all. In addition some stem cell progeny are produced correctly while others are depleted.

The published paper is open access and you can get straight to it here

Sunday, 21 July 2013 at 11:11 am

We are big suporters of Open Access in the lab and have made an effort in recent years to publish in OA journals or take OA options wherever we can afford to. One of my favourite journals, because it fits my broad interests without being an entirely generalist journal, is "Plos genetics". I am really happy that two of our papers have been published here in the past.

Recently I was asked and delighted to accept a role on the editorial board of the journal as an Associate Editor to help the journal assess an ever increasing number of submissons (and accepted papers).

I have contributed to OA by being an academic editor at Plos one in the past and this is another opportunity to support OA.

While no system is perfect, and I think the traditional idea of having journals at all might be a flawed model, plos genetics is a step in the right direction. By being open access and sticking to an area of expertise, very broadly "genetics". I have begun to rely on it as a place to keep up with innovations in my core  areas of interest.

Aziz 21-7-13

Friday, 18 January 2013 at 2:20 pm

Our work on the planarian ortholog of the TALE class homeobox protein PBX/extradenticle has been published in the journal "Development". This work was begun by Daniel Felix during his PhD thesis where he observed a very strong phenotype for this gene whilw focused on charactering another TALE class Homeobox called PREP. Robert followed this up with a very comprehensive set of experiments to characterise exactly what pbx does in planarians. Robert in particular deserves a lot of recogniton for coming in as a planarian novice and  being so productive and thoughtful about the project in such a short period of time. Belen then helped tie up some loose ends  with some "essential experiments before the paper could be published" that the reviewers kindly thought up (hence the burgeoning suppplementary information for this paper). While these were interesting they didn't add much to the main findings and may actually have made it harder for other groups (for example working on the order events that lead to midline specification) to publish more focuses studies in this area.

Overall we are really excited as pbx seems to have a central role in allowing stem cells and the their progeny to interpret their position. We think that it may be a key player in providing coordinate positional information to differentiating cells during regeneration as it has the potential to interact with large number fo cofactors when controling gene expression and act downstream of many signalling cascades. We hope to pursue our findings by looking at the detail of what and how pbx and prep regulate to confer positional information.

Also in the same issue of Development is a another paper on the same gene from Peter Reddien's group at MIT/Whitehead. We think the papers are very complementary and we are grateful too Peter for taking the decision to wait for our paper to be reconsidered after the paper from his group was accepted. We took little longer to add experiments to investigate eye regeneration, midline patterning, pharynx regeneration and in situs on sections requested by the reviewers.

You can check out the paper here 

Tuesday, 20 August 2013 at 8:05 pm

by Aziz

8 Coffee House Tips for in The Life Sciences:

PART 2, Tip 1 "Dodge the Bullet"

If you are reading this you are either considering  a career in research, considering a PhD, in the midst of of one or having completed a PhD in science thinking of your next step perhaps. Well my first questions for you are: Is there anything else you can imagine doing?, can you imagine something just as exciting you would like to try? If so there is a chance you can "dodge the bullet". Even if your other dreams seem unlikely are they anymore or less unlikely than a career in academic research? Quite possibly not.

Saturday, 17 August 2013 at 1:19 pm

by Aziz

8 Coffee House Tips for in The Life Sciences:


PART 1, A Preface: "Fortune and Glory, Kid- Fortune and Glory"

There is some irony in the fact that I seem to be asked to give career advice talks to graduate students and post-docs on a fairly frequent basis- even more ironic is that the most common comment is that "I wish someone had said all of this to me earlier". 

I am not a poster boy for how to have a successful career in science, athough moderately successful I have broken some of the cardinal rules, including (but not limited to); relatively long "unproductive" periods while changing to new systems in which I had no experience, taking on large workloads of academic service which promised no research productivity, and being very happy to do large amounts of intensive teaching. -But I do think my experiences make me well placed to be rather honest and brutal about what it takes to have a career in the currently hyper competitive field of life sciences academia. -The fact is being a research scientist is:

Wednesday, 09 January 2013 at 7:10 pm

At the end of last year Peter Holland, the Head of Department, had the interesting idea that a few of us should get together and edit Wikipedia pages. It was an enjoyable day, where about 30 of us gathered in the brand new Elton room to be taught some of the basics of editing by two Wikimedia trainers. One of these was Charles Matthews, Wikimedia volunteer and project leader of the virtual learning environment project, who very patiently took us through some of the command lines to get started, and by the end of the day I think most of us had improved at least one page. So why were we all so excited about doing this?

Monday, 07 January 2013 at 02:54 am

When I was a child, I had this persistent belief that I will live forever. Recently, I have been thinking if living forever is indeed a tangible thing or science fiction. To understand and think about ways of delaying or stopping ageing altogether, we need a solid definition of what constitutes ageing first. Without having any claims of being an expert in the field, I am going to try and present a comprehensive definition of the process and discuss some interesting directions in the field.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012 at 10:43 am

by Aziz

The Woodstock Road Delhi, 15 Woodstock Road, Oxford, www.oxfordfinefood.com

On the edge of St Giles and heading into Jericho this little lunchtime eatery serves some of the most wholesome food I have eaten, at prices out of tune with some of its expensive neighbours. The atmosphere is relaxed and friendly, their is reasonable wireless access and a spread of plug points, making this a dangerous territory for anyone prone to procrastination... especially since the coffee is right up their with the best I've had. But it is at lunchtime that this place comes alive.

Staffed by a revolving team of friendly staff this delhi has many shelves of fru-fru wines, coffees, sauces and cheese but it is the freshly cooked lunchtime fair that brings the local workforce, students and academics in their droves. On the busiest days in full swing their is a sweet spot of 10 minutes just around 1 o'clock when every seat is taken and the queue from the serving counter reaches the door and customers exchange awkward looks as they position themselves for the next seat. I like to arrive 20-30 minutes earlier and deliberate over a Flat White (the coffee is excellent, but slightly dependent on which member of the team makes it for you).

Lunch consists of a main course of one of 3-4 options, at least one of which is vegetarian. These range from stews and tangines with beef or lamb through too lentil dahl, often served with rice, cous cous or some other carb source. But the kicker is the salad choice that goes with these. 6-7 exotically colourful salads await you perusal and the standard lunch deal allows you to pick two helpings of these. Finally you get to choose whether or not to top everything with a spoon of mixed toasted seeds (its always a rhetorical question).

With the bill weighing in at a diminuitive £6 (if you include a soft drink) even our graduate students can afford to eat here!