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Blewitt Lab

Acting Deputy Director
14 members

About the lab

We study how genes are turned on and off, a process called epigenetic control that is critical for development. The DNA of a fertilised egg contains all the information to form an adult. Proteins called epigenetic modifiers turn different genes on and off throughout development. Disease can occur if this process fails.

Despite the importance of epigenetic control, we still don’t completely understand how it works. Our lab tries to understand this fundamental process at the nuts and bolts level. Our ultimate aims are to understand how epigenetic control works, so that we understand normal development, at the same time as learning how to harness the amazing potential of manipulating epigenetic modifiers to treat disease. Our current focus is activating or inhibiting the epigenetic regulator SMCHD1.

Our mission

Our vision is to decipher the precise molecular mechanisms that mediate epigenetic control to harness epigenetic regulators to treat disease.

Impact

Based on our discovery of the epigenetic regulator SMCHD1, we have used model systems, genomics and imaging to define when SMCHD1 is relevant in normal development and what it does at the DNA to help switch genes off. These studies are powering our understanding of how to target SMCHD1 to treat disease.

We continue to search for new epigenetic regulators and epigenetic mechanisms, now using X chromosome inactivation as a model system. Using our elegant Xmas cell system of female embryonic stem cells, we have revealed that the chromatin needs to be opened before it can be shut down and silenced. This new finding helps to reveal what steps might be required to bring about gene silencing in other contexts.

Highlights

Members of the Blewitt Lab outside at the Lorne Genome conference
Above: Lorne Genome 2023

Lab research projects

Lab team

Our lab loves to collaborate! We always welcome new collaborators if our expertise can be of help.

We collaborate closely with our neighbouring bioinformatics lab head Professor Matthew Ritchie, with jointly supervised staff and students working on epigenomic projects.

We collaborate closely with Professor James Murphy and Professor Peter Czabotar on SMCDH1 structure and function.

We work closely with Associate Professor Jeff Mitchell and Associate Professor Kym Lowes on our drug discovery program for SMCHD1.

14 members
Ruifeng Hu
PhD Student
Research Assistant
Boya Zhang
Honours Student
Sophie Morgan
PhD Student
PhD Student
PhD Student
Research Officer
Senior Research Officer
Dr Hannah Vanyai
Senior Research Officer
Tamara Beck
Research Assistant
Research Assistant
Dr Christine Biben
Senior Research Officer
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