Doug Hilton-Projects

Doug Hilton-Projects


Molecular regulation of blood cell production

In the blood and peripheral organs of healthy individuals, the three types of granulocytes (neutrophils, eosinophils and basophils) are important innate immune cells. Despite their key roles in health and disease, the molecular regulation of granulocyte production and function remains poorly characterised. We are defining new regulators of granulocyte formation and activation through analysis of gene regulatory networks using a comprehensive microarray and RNA-Seq transcriptome atlas of blood cell differentiation generated in our lab. We are exploring the function of these regulators and their role in the onset and progression of asthma and other inflammatory diseases with collaborators in hospitals and with scientists at CSL, with the goal of developing new medicines.

Understanding evolution of blood cell formation

By looking at blood cell development across vertebrate evolution we will gain a better understanding of what the critical components of a blood cell are at a genetic level, how these relate to phenotypic differences between cells and organisms, and how these features arise and are conserved or modified across evolution. In collaboration with researchers at Melbourne Aquarium, the Australian Regenerative Medicine Institute and elsewhere we are studying the transcriptomes of defined blood subpopulations in human, mouse, chicken, zebrafish, shark and lamprey. We aim to uncover the evolutionary events that have given rise to the complex cellular landscape of mammalian haematopoiesis.

Novel software tools for transcriptome visualisation and analysis

Productive exploration and visualisation of transcriptomic data can be a difficult and time-consuming process. Novel means of analysing and visualising large expression datasets integrated with related –omic and phenotypic data in order to facilitate hypothesis generation are a critical part of our drug target development projects. We are therefore developing methods and software for intuitive and interactive visualisation of transcriptomic data at all scales, from full datasets, to co-expressed clusters and regulatory networks, to gene expression profiles. These applications provide wet lab researchers and collaborators with tools to quickly mine relevant information from our haematopoietic atlas and public datasets.