Research Fellows Directory
Professor Cheryll Tickle CBE FRS FRSE
University of Bath
We wish to understand how structures arise in the proper places during embryonic development, how they grow and how the precise anatomy of specialised cells and tissues is generated. We have focussed on limb development and would like to understand for example how it is that a thumb develops at one side and a little finger at the other. In the last few years, studying the developing chick wing, as a model, we have shown that growth is essential for proper patterning. In order to understand how growth is controlled, we have continued to investigate when and where genes involved in cell proliferation are active in the developing chick wing. We are using this information to make 3D maps of these patterns of activity using a technique known as Optical Projection Tomography and are well on our way to establishing a computer-based atlas of the activity of the genes involved in cell proliferation. At the same time, we are also mapping when and where genes likely to be involved in generating the pattern of the digits are active. Computational analysis of all this information in collaboration with computer scientists will allow us to compare patterns of activity of genes involved in growth with those of genes involved in pattern formation, helping us to understand how these two fundamental processes that take place in the embryo are integrated.
Another important aim is to gain insights into the basis of congenital abnormalities seen in human patients. We continued to use chick embryos as a model for human short stature associated with the SHOX gene. We identified regions of DNA near the Shox gene that control its activity by hooking these regions up to a reporter gene and showing that the reporter gene is active when introduced into the chick wing. This explains why patients with an intact Shox gene but genetic deletions in neighbouring DNA have short stature. We also established mouse models for club foot and metabolic disorders that affect embryonic development.