close-up of DNA helix

Epigenetics and developmental biology research

Explore our work in epigenetics and developmental biology, 1 of the 6 areas of expertise in our Biological Sciences research

Epigenetics explores changes in how genes are expressed and how cells read them, whereas traditional molecular genetics focuses on changes to a DNA sequence. Developmental biology looks at the processes governing organism growth and development.

We're investigating the basic mechanisms underlying cell differentiation and development. This leads to an understanding of how human health and disease is shaped by changes in the form and function of cells, organs and whole bodies over the lifespan of an organism.

We're using our expertise in epigenetics and developmental biology to find new ways to treat genetic disorders. We're identifying novel targets for drugs and searching for advances in treatment that could impact the lives of millions around the world.

Advances in high-throughput sequencing have resulted in enormous data sets, and we're using bioinformatic analysis to find the links between gene expression, health and disease, and studying the interplay between gene regulation and gene function in embryonic development.

We're transforming that knowledge into possible therapies, which we're testing on model organisms, like chicken and Xenopus frog embryos – two ethically-acceptable and powerful models for human development, used for in vivo cell and stem cell testing, short term-analysis of gene function, and gene regulation.

We also have particular expertise in microsurgery, microscopy, cell culture, molecular and cell biology, and our research is regularly published in major international scientific publications, such as PLoS ONE, Developmental Biology, Developmental Dynamics, Open Biology, the Journal of Anatomy, Gene, BMC Bioinformatics, Reproduction and Fertility and Development.

Our research focuses on the following topics


  • Cell and stem cell biology
  • Embryonic development
  • Genetics
  • Epigenetics
  • Molecular biology
  • Evolution
  • Ageing

Facilities and research methods

Our exceptional facilities play an important role in our work, including fluorescence microscopy, real-time PCR and micro-CT. The European Xenopus Resource Centre – part of a global network of laboratories – has established a rapid pipeline for the testing of gene function in the Xenopus frog model, using CRISPR/Cas technology.

We use various methods in our research. Gene expression is manipulated to test gene function using a range of methods, including CRISPR Cas9 for gene editing, and analysed by RT-PCR, high-throughput RNAseq, Western blotting and immunohistochemistry.

Collaborations and funding

We regularly collaborate on research with industry and academic partners around the world. We've worked on projects with Southampton General Hospital, the Nencki Institute (Poland), the Zoological Society of London and Genomics England, who we're working with on the 100,000 Genomes Project, which aims to identify rare disease genes.

We've received research funding from major funders such as the Wellcome Trust, the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), the Anatomical Society and the National Centre for the 3Rs (NC3Rs).

Publication highlights

Discover our areas of expertise

Epigenetics and developmental biology is 1 of our 6 areas of expertise in our Biological Sciences research area. Explore the others below.

Research groups

We're exploring disciplinary boundaries to discover, understand and develop knowledge for the benefit of the environment and humankind.
We're studying biomolecules such as DNA, RNA and proteins to allow us to tackle issues such as disease, pollution and energy.

Interested in a PhD in Biological Sciences?

Browse our postgraduate research degrees – including PhDs and MPhils – at our Biological Sciences postgraduate research degrees page.