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School of the Biological Sciences

From the moment we are conceived and throughout life, our cells and tissues encounter various challenges that impact our health. Members of our theme study normal and disrupted developmental processes with the aim of living healthy for longer, and improving reproductive health. With over 80 different research groups focusing on topics ranging from reproduction to cancer and using invertebrate, vertebrate and plant models we are in a unique position to realise our aim.

Grand Challenge Topics

Extending healthy lifespan by 10 years

Over the last 60 years the global average life expectancy increased more than 20 years, partly as a result of countless medical breakthroughs. However, most of the these medical interventions address the symptoms rather than the causes of age associated diseases. Scientists in the School of Biological Sciences are combining their world leading expertise to tackle some of the biggest questions in human biology: What if we could identify those at risk of developing chronic age-related conditions before they present in the clinic? What if we could intervene before any symptoms arise and prevent disease        onset? These changes would revolutionise healthcare and transform our twilight years into a healthy period of our lives.

 

 

Complex tissue regeneration across scales and systems

Embryos and plants show us that multi-tissue regeneration is possible, however complex animals and humans have mostly lost this capability. Researchers in Cambridge are working together to learn lessons across tissues, systems and scales to make human limb and organ regeneration possible. Read more

Recent Discoveries

Maternal microbiome promotes healthy development of the baby

Researchers studying mice have found the first evidence of how a mother’s gut microbes can help in the development of the placenta, and the healthy growth of the baby.

A new study has found that a species of gut bacteria, known to have beneficial effects for health in mice and humans, changes the mother’s body during pregnancy and affects the structure of the placenta and nutrient transport - which impacts the growing baby. The bacteria, Bifidobacterium breve, is widely used as a probiotic so this study could point to ways of combating pregnancy complications and ensuring a healthy start in life across the population. The research involved scientists from the University of Cambridge, the Quadram Institute, and the University of East Anglia. Read

Wider Impact

Production of high quality growth factors for regenerative medicine

Stem cell research is providing new avenues for both therapy and diagnosis but has been limited by the low availability of high-quality, affordable and consistent growth factors, which are required to maintain stem cells in culture and to drive their differentiation to specialised cell types.

Using his expertise in basic research on growth factors, Marko Hyvönen has developed a platform that represents a step-change in the production of growth factors. His novel method for producing large amounts of high-quality growth factors led to the establishment of his spin-out company Qkine in 2016. He developed the method originally to generate large amounts of high quality Activin A, a growth factor that through specific cell surface receptors controls many cellular behaviours, making it of considerable importance in stem cell research and its clinical outputs. The new production method does not rely on the use of animal-derived products, which means that these processes could be used for production of clinical grade human stem cell cultures. Read

Theme Leads


Dino Giussani

Physiology, Development and Neuroscience


Walid Khaled

Pharmacology/ Cambridge Stem Cell Institute


Emma Rawlins

Physiology, Development and Neuroscience/ Gurdon Institute


Ben Steventon

Genetics

Learn More

Members of the School can find out more about the Research Themes on the School Information Hub.

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