Our laboratory studies how blood cells are produced. Blood cells are required for the body’s defence against infection, oxygen transport around the body and blood clotting to prevent bleeding. Reductions in numbers of blood cells, such as during chemotherapy for cancer treatment, increase the risk of severe infection or bleeding. Conversely, when the production or function of white blood cells occurs unchecked, diseases such as leukaemia or autoimmunity can arise.
Our research aims to understand the molecules and processes governing blood cell production in health and disease. This knowledge allows development of new strategies for treatment of diseases of the blood.
Our laboratory has made discoveries in two major areas. We have identified and defined the roles of molecular regulators of hematopoiesis, the process by which the body generates new blood cells, with particular emphasis on the roles of hematopoietic stem cells and the production of blood platelets. We have also explored the roles of cytokines, or blood cell hormones, with a particular emphasis on thrombopoietin, the major regulator of platelet production, and the study of novel negative regulators of cellular responses to cytokines, defining the importance of these regulatory systems in preventing unhealthy excess responses.
Megakaryocytes are the specialised cells in the bone marrow that produce blood platelets, the small anucleate cells responsible for effective blood clotting. Our laboratory has a long-standing interest in the molecular regulation of megakaryocyte production. Current studies include defining the cellular targets and actions of thrombopoietin (TPO), the major cytokine regulator of megakaryopoiesis, and application of genetics and genomics tools to discover novel megakaryocyte regulators.
Haematopoietic stem cells (HSC) coordinate the maintenance of the diverse variety of functional blood cells over a lifetime. Accordingly, HSC have the properties of both self-renewal, the capacity to maintain a fully potent stem cell pool, and differentiation, allowing the controlled production of maturing blood cells. Our current studies include dissection of stem cell regulation using genetics and genomics tools.