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Dr Andrew Nelson

Supervisor Details

Andrew Nelson

Contact Details

Dr Andrew Nelson

School of Life Sciences, University of Warwick

Research Interests

As embryos develop they become more complex, acquiring progressively more cell types in order to form fully functional tissues and organs. Emergence of new cell types during development is highly coordinated in time and space. This coordination involves the activation and deactivation of specific sets of genes through multiple waves of programming, largely controlled by signals received from neighbouring cells and local tissue environments. Whether genes are activated or deactivated is heavily influenced by regulatory DNA sequences, and whether they are accessible to the relevant cellular machinery. We seek to understand how cues received by cells influences use of different DNA sequences by specialised proteins to activate and deactivate genes, and thus control cell identities.

The Nelson lab studies how cell identities are determined in two distinct contexts. We use zebrafish to investigate how specialised cells known as “endoderm” arise in the early embryo, and go on to make major contributions to the respiratory and gastrointestinal tracts, and associated organs including liver and pancreas. We also use stem cell cultures to investigate how the mouse placenta forms, and produces specialised cells that enhance blood supply to the developing foetus during pregnancy, and perform nutrient and waste exchange between mother and foetus.

Elucidating how programming of different cell types is controlled in zebrafish and mouse has a range of benefits. These include:

  • Understanding how such processes likely occur in humans.
  • Informing how cells of therapeutic value can be produced in the lab.
  • Revealing how errors in gene activation through mutations in DNA can lead to developmental and metabolic defects.
  • Understanding how changes in these fundamental biological processes have driven differences between species during evolution.

Our main long-term goal is to understand how mutations in regulatory DNA sequences contribute to developmental defects and pregnancy complications.

MIBTP Project Details

Previous Projects (2024-25)

Primary supervisor for:

Previous Projects (2023-24)

Primary supervisor for: