Genetics & Molecular Medicine (Research Division)
The Department of Medical & Molecular Genetics aims to identify genes, their functions, and variants, implicated in both Mendelian and complex common disorders. Recent studies have focussed on aspects of breast cancer development, susceptibility to inflammatory bowel disease and psoriasis and molecular characterisation of the pathogenesis of the vascular disorder known as pulmonary arterial hypertension.
Further substantial research programmes exist in neurogenetics including basic to translational aspects of Huntington disease , while other work explores epigenetic effects (eg imprinting and control of gene expression, and epistatic interactions between genes). A number of groups are involved in development of statistical approaches to whole genome association studies and the integration of emerging biological databases with genomic studies.
The teaching strategy aims to demystify genetics and emphasise its importance at the undergraduate level, and to provide stimulating research projects at graduate level. Members of the department form a joint MRC cooperative group (Genetic Approaches to Human Disease) with the Division of Craniofacial Development (Professor P Sharpe; Dental Institute). Members of the department are also part of a new MRC Centre in Transplantation, headed by Professor Steve Sacks. Although each group tends to work on the genetics of different diseases, departmental research shares common technologies and strategies. The Division has state-of-the-art laboratories and equipment, including a high-throughput genomics facility (under Dr Peter Green), computing infrastructure for bioinformatics, microarray facilities, confocal and laser dissection microscopy.
The research strategy of St John's Institute of Dermatology seeks to improve the diagnosis and management of severe skin diseases through a better understanding of the basic pathogenetic mechanisms that cause and sustain these conditions. It targets four key areas: cutaneous oncology, genetic skin disorders, inflammatory and autoimmune skin disorders, and photomedicine.
Research methods extend from molecular genetic analysis to therapeutic intervention studies. Work in progress embraces both collaborations within King's College London and external collaborations world-wide. The close relationship between scientists, clinicians and clinical resources allows for shared knowledge, flow of patient material (eg skin biopsies, blood samples) to the laboratories and dissemination of scientific knowledge to clinicians, fostering an atmosphere of science-based clinical practice and translational research. Members of the division belong to an MRC cooperative group (FRET/FLIM microscopy in cell migration). Research facilities within St John's are designed to enable translational human skin biological research and include cell biology (including cell transfection), immuno-labelling and photomicroscopic facilities, molecular genetic facilities and in vivo sampling techniques (phototesting, skin biopsy, DNA sampling), with appropriate storage techniques. The department is situated in 850m2 of new laboratories, together with appropriate facilities, on the Guy's Campus, adjoining the Department of Medical & Molecular Genetics.
The Department of Twin Research (DTR), and Genetic Epidemiology headed by Professor Tim Spector, is one of the largest twin databases in the world, with a total of 10,000 twins, with the most detailed phenotype information on twins available worldwide, allowing collaborative work with a range of scientists from different specialities and disease areas. The UK Twin Registry has been responsible for demonstrating the genetic heritability of a number of diseases that were believed to be caused by age and environment alone. The DTR has also set up a unique cohort of 1003 aging women followed for 18 years (the Chingford study), which produced valuable data on the natural history and progression of age-related and musculoskeletal diseases. The DTR is participating in a number of FP6 and FP7 EU projects and is the coordinator of an EU project involving seven other institutions looking at the genetics of clotting and strokes; it is also coordinating an FP7 project which includes nine other partners and is looking at Translational Research in Europe Applied Technologies for Osteoarthritis. The principal focus of research is on complex genetic traits, the main categories being in the area of aging, CVD, metabolic syndrome, and eyes.