Molecular and Cellular Medicine

Molecular and Cellular Medicine

Researchers use model systems such as human cells, fruit flies, amphibians, rodents and parasites to understand the molecular mechanisms regulating nerve, muscle, skeletal, immune and epithelial tissue function. Our expertise ranges across cell signalling, membrane trafficking, glycobiology, tissue engineering, cell cycle and differentiation as well as regulation of DNA replication and transcription. 

Molecular and Cellular Medicine focuses on five areas of health and disease: cancer, inflammatory and infectious disease, degenerative diseases, hereditary diseases and tissue engineering & regeneration.


By revealing underpinning molecular mechanisms, Molecular and Cellular Medicine research provides opportunities for the prevention, diagnosis, intervention and treatment of chronic disease conditions. Below are three examples and you will find many more in the impacting on health and disease section.

Impacting on health and disease

Nucleotide incorporation into sites of DNA replication in S phase.

Biomarker for early stage lung cancer

Tissue engineering the human bladder – developing functional urothelial tissue constructs in vitro. 3D reconstruction from laser confocal micrographs taken as a “Z” series through human urothelium generated in vitro. Cell nuclei (red); sodium/potassium ATPase (blue); tight junctions (green). Image by W. Cross (Southgate lab).

Ex-vivo model for bladder reconstruction

Histotech human Ureter labelling

Histotech: a specialist histology service

Examples of Molecular and Cellular Medicine projects

Human Prostate Cancer, In prostate cancer, the self-renewing tumour inducing fraction is resistant to conventional treatments. Researchers in the Cancer Research Unit have shown that novel treatments, based on signalling pathway analysis in the tumour initiating cells, can completely abrogate tumour induction.

Intra-Golgi protein sorting in congenital glycosylation disorders, Alterations in protein and lipid linked glycans are associated with many diseases. Ongoing research in York has uncovered the importance and molecular details of intra-Golgi protein sorting in congenital glycosylation disorders.

Parkinson’s and changes in vision, Victims of Parkinson’s, the second most common form of neurodegenerative disease, suffer tremor and slowness of movement (bradykinesia), but some people also experience changes in vision. Researchers in the University’s Department of Biology have established a link between a mutation which triggers Parkinson’s and problems with vision.‌

Academic staff associated with Molecular and Cellular Medicine

Dr Gonzalo Blanco, Lecturer: molecular basis of the muscle mechanosensor(s).

Dr Will Brackenbury, MRC Career Development Fellow: role of sodium channels in regulating the migration and invasion of metastatic cancer cells.

Dr Sangeeta Chawla, Lecturer: response of neuronal transcription factors to growth factors and synaptic activity; gene expression programmes underlying neuronal differentiation and synaptic plasticity.

Dr Dawn Coverley, Reader: nuclear structure and function, mammalian DNA replication, cell cycle, Ciz1, cancer.

Dr Chris J H Elliott, Lecturer: Parkinson’s disease (PD) using fly models to understand why (some dopaminergic) neurons die more than others.

Dr Gareth J O Evans, Senior Lecturer: function of the neuronal isoforms of Src tyrosine kinase; presynaptic cAMP-dependent signalling in the cerebellum.

Dr Paul Genever, Reader: cellular and molecular pathways that regulate differentiated tissue function, primarily in skeletal systems.

Dr Darren L Goffin, Lecturer: the neurobiology of autism spectrum disorders; the role of DNA methylation in health and disease

Dr Harv Isaacs, Reader: function and regulation of the Cdx and Gsx classes of transcription factors using xenopus models.

Professor Paul M Kaye, Director of the Centre for Immunology and Infection: antigen presentation, immunopathology, leishmaniasis, dendritic cells, imaging, inflammation, macrophages.

Professor George L Kellett, Emeritus: regulation of intestinal nutrient absorption.

Dr Marika Kullberg, Lecturer: immunology of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), immune responses in the intestinal tract.

Professor Norman J Maitland, Director of the YCR Cancer Research Unit: development and aetiology of human prostate cancer.

Professor Jo Milner, Emeritus: differentiation and transdifferentiation of normal human cells and the deregulation of human cells in disease.

Dr Adrian P Mountford, Reader: immune responses to Schistosoma mansoni.

Dr Betsy Pownall, Reader: activation of the myogenic regulatory genes during the development of Xenopus laevis and Xenopus tropicalis.

Dr Paul Pryor, Lecturer: biogenesis of lysosomes and phagolysosomes.

Dr Nathalie Signoret, Lecturer: role of chemokine receptors in regulating mononuclear phagocyte function during immune responses.

Professor Jenny Southgate, Director, Jack Birch Unit: proliferation, differentiation and cellular organisation in normal and wounded epithelial tissues; development and progression of malignant disease.

Professor John Sparrow, Emeritus: muscle differentiation, disease and regulation of contraction using the Drosophila flight and jump muscles as model systems.

Dr Sean T Sweeney, Lecturer: role of the endosome in regulating signals controlling synapse growth.

Dr Daniel Ungar, Lecturer: vesicular transport processes in the Golgi that sort resident enzymes to their cisternal destinations.

Dr Pegine Walrad, Anniversary Research Lecturer: regulators of Leishmania parasite differentiation that enable human leukocyte infection.

 Recent news

 Lung metastasis

Potential anti-cancer use for anti-epilepsy drug

 Bone marrow

Researchers discover new target for blood cancer treatment

 Cancer cells

New approach aims to silence cancer 'survival genes'

Research Centres and Units linked to Molecular and Cellular Medicine

Centre for Immunology and Infection

Jack Birch Unit for Molecular Carcinogenesis

YCR Cancer Research Unit

Examples of high profile publications

Mono-allelic expression of TMPRSS2/ERG in prostate cancer stem cells. Polson et al. 2013, Nature Communications

COG complexes form spatial landmarks for distinct SNARE complexes. Willett et al. 2013, Nature Communications

Variant Ciz1 is a circulating biomarker for early-stage lung cancer. Higgins et al.  2012, PNAS

Oxidative stress induces overgrowth of the Drosophila neuromuscular junction. Milton et al.  2011, PNAS