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Lina’s paper is out!

Our study of vascular smooth muscle cell heterogeneity using single-cell transcriptomics and lineage tracing is finally out! Co-led by our group’s Lina Dobnikar and Annabel Taylor fro Helle Jørgensen’s lab at Cambridge University.

Vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs) from are interesting for at least two reasons: (1) they originate from at least two different embryonic layers, depending on location and (2) in response to inflammation or injury, they lose their muscle cell phenotype and turn into migrating, proliferating fibroblast-like ‘synthetic’ cells.

We found that VSMCs homogeneously bear the footprints of their embryonic origins, but are heterogeneous with respect to other expressed genes. In particular, we found a rare VSMC subpopulation in healthy vessels that express a transcriptional signature (including progenitor marker Sca1) that is prevalent in vascular disease and potentially defines cells in the process of switching to the synthetic state.

Notably, Helle previously showed that only a small proportion of VSMCs expand in response to injury, so being able to catch cells ‘in the act’ of switching may help to understand ‘what makes them tick’.

Link to paper: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-018-06891-x.
Link to press release: https://www.babraham.ac.uk/news/2018/11/observation-of-blood-vessel-cells-changes-could-lead-to-early-detection-of-blocked-arteries.

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Our group is moving to Imperial College London!

From 1st of July, we are moving to MRC LMS in West London (part of Imperial College Institute of Molecular Sciences) to become Functional Gene Control group. We will continue to operate from both locations for the time being, although the expectation is that our presence at Babraham Institute will be gradually withering out.

The website will be updated and its name will change accordingly (FunctionalGeneControl.group). The previous URL, regulatorygenomicsgroup.org, will remain operational.

The move opens an exciting new chapter in our group’s life and we are looking forward to fostering new links within MRC LMS, Imperial College and the broader London scientific ecosphere. Nonetheless, we will continue to draw on our close collaborations with many Babraham and Cambridge researchers, which will still be within reach and equally valuable!

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Our public science project makes it to London’s Science Museum Lates

A collaborative public science project between Babraham Institute scientists, electronic musician Max Cooper and video artist Andy Lomas that was initiated by Mikhail has made it to Science Museum Lates yesterday!

The centrepiece of our exhibit, “Chromos”, was a virtual reality walkthrough the 3D structure of chromosomes based on 3D models of interphase chromatin generated from single-cell Hi-C data. The project also featured a music video based on the same data and a presentation about the science behind this work.

Molecular dynamics simulations by Csilla Varnái (Peter Fraser’s group) using single-cell Hi-C data from Takashi Nagano were used for both the video and the VR. The science presentation was put together by Stefan Schoenfelder, Csilla and Mikhail. Special thanks go to Babraham Institute’s public engagement team (and particularly Tacita Croucher) who managed and funded this project, and Babraham scientists Valeriya Malysheva, Zahra Fahmi, Daisy Luff and Rafeah Alam who volunteered at the event!

ChromosGroupPhoto2

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Valeriya and Pawel join the group

February saw two new group members join us.

Valeriya Malysheva, funded by a commercialisation grant from Babraham’s Knowlegde Exchange Committee, joins us after a PhD at IGBMC in Strasbourg and will work on optimising the experimental and bioinformatics sides of promoter capture Hi-C.

Pawel Bednarz will stay with us for 6 months on a visiting studentship from Poland and will work on the relationship between genetic variation and promoter interactions.

Welcome Valeriya and Pawel!

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Lina and Michiel win Biotechnology YES competition

The team of Babraham PhD students Lina Dobnikar, Michiel Thiecke, Natasha Morgan and Rachael Huntley (the first two of them from our group!) has won the prestigious Biotechnology YES competition, pitching their startup proposal on a new chemical for fighting bee parasites to a panel of judges at the Royal Society in London. The proposal is currently fictional, but it is based on real science and Michiel’s practical knowledge of beekeeping, so who knows – perhaps the prize will inspire the winners to put their proposal into practice? Either way, huge congratulations!

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