Embryology

The Embryology Group initiated the experimental study of cell movement in development, focusing on a major embryonic organ system called the neural crest. The team also pioneered biomathematical simulations to understand this process. The neural crest produces the autonomic and sensory nervous systems, endocrine organs and also much of the face, neck and outflow vessels of the heart.

Researchers have asked questions like: How is cell movement started? How is it stopped? How do the cells know which way to go, and for how far? This has led to fundamental understandings of the biology of cell movement.

Developmental errors in the neural crest, called neurocristopathies, are among the most common structural defects in babies. These include facial and palatal clefts, cardiac outflow tract defects, dysautonomia and neuroblastoma. The neural crest-derived enteric (intestinal) nervous system is partially absent in a disease called Hirschsprung Disease. Current treatment for this fatal disease is removal of a section of bowel, which is life-saving, but distressing complications may still occur. The group is using its developmental background to investigate stem/progenitor cell therapy to build the enteric nervous system missing in this disease, to provide an alternative, or an adjunct, to present surgery.

Group Leaders: 
Dr Ben Rollo
Role: 
Post-doctoral researcher
Dr Lincon Stamp
Role: 
Post-doctoral visitor
Dong Zhang
Role: 
PhD Student
Sami Ighaniyan
Role: 
PhD Student
Dad Abu-Bonsrah
Role: 
PhD Student
Emily Gilbert
Role: 
Honours student
Lefteris Stathopoulos
Role: 
Visiting Fellow
  • The use of enteric nervous system-derived cells from Hirschsprung patients to form enteric nervous system in Hirschsprung bowel tissue.
  • The formation of neural crest and enteric neural crest progenitor cells from human pluripotent cells.
  • The invasion and differentiation capacity of human neuroblastoma cell lines tested by implantation in vivo into neural crest sites in avian embryos.
  • The CRISPRCas engineering of MEN2 A and B mutations in neural crest progenitor cells derived from human pluripotent cells.
  • Cellular automata modelling of normal and abnormal migration, aggregation and differentiation of the neural crest as it forms the enteric nervous system.
Collaborations: 
  • Professor K A Landman, Dept Mathematics and Statistics, University of Melbourne
  • Professor J Hutson, Surgical Research, MCRI and RCH
  • Dr B J Binder, School of Mathematical Sciences, University of Adelaide
  • Mr B Cheeseman, Max-Planck-Institut, Dresden, Germany
  • Dr Q Chen, Department of Materials Engineering, Monash University
  • Dr M Denham, Dept. Of Biomedicine, Aarhus University, Denmark
  • Dr M Dottori, Centre for Neural Engineering, University of Melbourne
  • Dr C Nowell, Dept Pharmacology, Monash University
  • Prof.Greg Qiao, DeptChemical and BiomolecularEngineering, University of Melbourne