Double helix 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.

Biodiversity and Evolution

We're cataloging new species, and creating a basis for assessing and reversing the extinction of species. Explore our biodiversity and evolution research.

Man holding an oyster on a boat in the Solent
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Ecotoxicology and Environmental Monitoring

We're examining how humans impact ecosystems, and developing new ways to assess and counteract our impact on the environment.

Langstone harbour with tide in
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Marine Sciences

Through our research in marine science, we're working to improve the marine environment for future generations, and to make marine activities more sustainable.

School of fish swimming in deep ocean
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Environmental microbiology and biotechnology

We're searching for new antibiotics and other important enzymes and molecules – and developing the new technology needed to harness microbes for human benefit.

Fungal cultures in a petri dish in microbiology lab
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Molecular Biophysics

We're exploring the composition, function & behaviour of biomolecules so they can have societally, industrially and medically useful functions. Explore our molecular biophysics research.

Enzyme structure, courtesy of Centre for Enzyme Innovation, Portsmouth
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Research groups

Institute of Biological and Biomedical Sciences

We're exploring disciplinary boundaries to discover, understand and develop knowledge for the benefit of the environment and humankind.

Epigenetics and Developmental Biology Research Group

We're researching the basic mechanisms underlying cell differentiation and development leading to an understanding of how human health and disease is shaped. 


Interested in a PhD in Biological Sciences?

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