BBSRC provides £2.8M funding to track development from embryo to adult

Friday, 10 January 2014 17:18


Scientists from The Universities of Cambridge, Manchester and University College London have been awarded £2.8 million for a collaborative project to help us learn more about how cells develop and form particular types of body tissue.

The award is part of a £17.7million cash-injection by the BBSRC (Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council) aimed at harnessing the power of bioscience and make significant impacts in health as well as agriculture, alternatives to fossil fuels, and using biology to produce important commercial products.

The research team, including Professors Kathryn Lilley and Steven Russell of the Cambridge Systems Biology Centre, and Professor Alfonso Martinez Arias of the Department of Genetics are using fruit fly embryo development as a model system to answer important questions about how much of each gene product is expressed at different time points, which versions of individual genes are expressed and define a catalogue of interacting protein partners.

The project is led by Professor Simon Hubbard from the Faculty of Life Sciences, University of Manchester, who, said: “This could help understand how gene defects lead to abnormal development.
“Our development is governed by the complex interplay between the proteins encoded by our genes. Careful control of these proteins at a specific time during development dictates the fate of cells and the tissues they will form, for example, how cells specialise to form particular tissues such as nerves, muscle or eyes.

“While some of this information is contained within the genome sequence, we currently lack the full picture of what happens during development in the embryo. 

“This project will close the gap in knowledge using both experimental and computational science.

“By comprehensively characterising how development works in the fruit fly, major advances in developmental biology and genome science can be made.”

The research, known as the BBSRC Drosophila Developmental Interactome Project, is funded through BBSRC's Strategic Longer and Larger Awards (sLoLas), which give world-leading teams the time and resources. The projects were chosen based on their scientific excellence; because they required long timescales, extensive resources and/or multidisciplinary approaches; and they involve internationally-leading research teams.

Professor Jackie Hunter, BBSRC’s Chief Executive, said: “This public funding offers long-term support to address major research challenges, while building research capacity in important areas and maximising economic and social benefits for the UK.

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