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The role of Sonic hedgehog in embryonic cell proliferation

Project Description

This project aims to investigate how Sonic hedgehog (Shh) signalling controls embryonic cell proliferation. The classical view is that Shh signalling acts as a morphogen to specify cell fate decisions, but it has become evident from our work in the chick hypothalamus (1-3) and the limb (4-6) that it is also a major regulator of cell proliferation and growth. The complex nature of the developing embryo has made it difficult to understand how Shh signalling controls both processes in time and space. To address this problem, both labs have devised simplified in vitro tissue explant systems that faithfully replicate in vivo development. The aim of the project is to understand common principles of how Shh signalling integrates patterning and growth. Both labs are funded by the Wellcome Trust and use cutting edge embryological, genomic, imaging and modelling approaches to understand embryonic development.

Science Graduate School
As a PhD student in one of the science departments at the University of Sheffield, you’ll be part of the Science Graduate School. You’ll get access to training opportunities designed to support your career development by helping you gain professional skills that are essential in all areas of science. You’ll be able to learn how to recognise good research and research behaviour, improve your communication abilities and experience the breadth of technologies that are used in academia, industry and many related careers. Visit to learn more

Funding Notes

Entry requirements
First class or upper second 2(i) in a relevant subject. To formally apply for a PhD, you must complete the University's application form using the following link: View Website

*All applicants should ensure that both references are uploaded onto their application as a decision will be unable to be made without this information*.


Fu T, Towers M and Placzek M. (2017) Fgf10+ progenitors give rise to the chick hypothalamus by rostral and caudal growth and differentiation. Development 144(18):3278-3288 10.1242/dev.153379

Fu, T., Pearson, C., Towers, M. and Placzek, M. (2019) Development of the basal hypothalamus through anisotropic growth. J Neuroendocrinol. 2019 May;31(5):e12727. doi: 10.1111/jne.12727.

Pickering J, Chinnaiya K & Towers M (2019) An autoregulatory cell cycle timer integrates growth and specification in chick wing digit development. eLife, 8.

Chinnaiya K, Tickle C & Towers M (2014) Sonic hedgehog-expressing cells in the developing limb measure time by an intrinsic cell cycle clock. Nat Commun, 5, 4230

Towers M, Mahood R, Yin Y & Tickle C (2008). Integration of growth and specification in chick wing digit-patterning. Nature, 452(7189), 882-886

Related Subjects

How good is research at University of Sheffield in Biological Sciences?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 44.90

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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