At the heart of the Molecular and cellular (MCM) theme is a fundamental interest in the specialisation of cells to form and maintain functional, healthy tissues - and how failure of the tissue homeostasis process culminates in the chronic and degenerative diseases of ageing.
Our research covers:
- Fundamental processes of development and differentiation; lineage commitment and fate of stem cells; cell cycle regulation; mechanisms of tissue homeostasis and repair
- Chronic diseases including diabetes, muscular dystrophy, urinary tract dysfunction, epithelial carcinogenesis
- Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine (TERM), including stem cells and biomaterials.
Experimental stem and cell type-systems
We have strength in different human and model organisms (yeast, xenopus, zebra fish, mice), using musculoskeletal (Genever, Blanco, Pownall, Willems) and epithelial (Southgate, Brackenbury and Holding) tissues.
These experimental systems provide a basis for studying nuclear organisation (Coverley), genomes (Mason, Noy), chromatin regulation (Holding), ion channels (Brackenbury), subcellular compartmentalisation and trafficking (Bryant, MacDonald) and cell signalling (Evans) in health and disease.
Carcinogenesis and malignancy
Cancer crosses themes and brings together interests in epithelial cancers and haematological malignancies. Epithelial tissues are responsible for the great majority of adult epithelial cancers and are studied by several research groups. The Jack Birch Unit (JBU), led by Southgate and Baker, concentrates on bladder (urothelial) cancer. The research uses in vitro approaches to understand normal tissue regulatory controls and how these processes are targeted during carcinogenesis and malignant transformation. The research combines cell and molecular approaches with data-rich transcriptomic analyses of in house and public datasets to identify tissue-specific and common cancer pathways (Mason).
Research is also being undertaken to understand the migration and invasion of metastatic breast cancer cells (Brackenbury), the role of hormones in driving breast cancer and why people respond differently to the same treatment (Holding). A blood test for the early detection of lung cancer is being developed (Coverley).
Carbohydrates play key roles in a wide variety of cellular processes. When attached to proteins, they can, for example, regulate protein stability and mediate cell-cell and cell-pathogen interactions. These glycoconjugates are often extended into complex, branched carbohydrate structures. The exact structures of the various glycoconjugates are determined by the enzymes that are responsible for building up, remodeling and breaking down carbohydrate chains. Defects in several of these enzymes, as well as in the glycoconjugates themselves, have been found to be at the basis of various human diseases.
Research at York looks at glycan biosynthesis and degradation in health and disease. Specifically viral invasion, cancer and imaging/treatment of lysosomal storage diseases (Davies), tumour metastasis, bacterial recognition and the immunological response (Fascione) and muscular dystrophies (Willems).
There is a focus is on deciphering and in vivo perturbation of the roles that carbohydrates play in the aetiology of disease. With an overarching goal to develop chemical biology tools, which can be applied in innovative new 'chemical glycomedicine' approaches, for the prevention and treatment of disease. To translate novel chemistry into living systems, from where the complex roles of carbohydrates can be probed further at a dynamic cellular level (Fascione, Willems).