Nick Hastie’s observations on the physiological impact of genetic variants have revealed new mechanisms underlying the control of development and the maintenance of adult stem cells. He was the first to characterise human telomeres — repetitive DNA sequences at the tips of chromosomes — and discovered that they shorten with age.
Through studies on mice, Nick demonstrated that the Wt1 gene, which is mutated in children with Wilm’s tumour of the kidney, regulates key transitions between mesenchymal and epithelial cells that are essential for normal organ formation. His work on Wt1 led to the discovery that the Pax6 gene is essential for eye development.
Finding that Wt1 is expressed at high levels in many cancers, he went on to show that its normal role in adults is to support the production of stem cells. Nick has chaired numerous advisory groups and editorial boards and was awarded the UK Genetics Society Medal in 2008.
Interest and expertise
Microbiology, immunology and developmental biology
Developmental biology, Genetics (excluding population genetics)