Our research is focused on understanding how melanocytes develop, divide, migrate and maintain homeostasis within their microenvironment, as well as the genetic and cellular events that cause melanocytes to form moles and their progression to invasive cancer. To do this, we use the zebrafish system, which allows both the visualization of developing and migrating melanocytes, as well as their aberrant progression to melanoma.
The zebrafish is a powerful model system to study developmental biology, chemical biology and disease models. Due to the similar genetic, molecular and cancer pathology between humans and fish, our melanoma progression model can be viewed as an important starting point for identifying novel genes, environmental conditions, and therapeutic compounds that affect melanoma progression.
We use genetics and chemical-biology to discover the fundamental processes that contribute to melanocyte development during embryogenesis, and explore how these processes contribute to melanoma development. Our lab at the MRC Human Genetics Unit has close collaborations with the Edinburgh Cancer Research Centre, and ultimately we aim to translate our discoveries in zebrafish to the understanding and treatment of human disease. We have two zebrafish facilities at the IGMM, and access to a wide range of transgenic and genetic lines, diverse chemical libraries, and state-of-the-art imaging facilities.