Cancer Research UK

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The London Research Institute research groups are based at Lincoln’s Inn Fields and Clare Hall. Our major research themes are: the biology of tumours and tissues, cellular regulatory mechanisms and genomic integrity and cell cycle.

Nathan Goehring : Developmental Systems


Pattern-forming systems provide essential spatial cues to guide the complex three dimensional puzzle that is organismal development. Work over the past decades has identified most of the key molecules involved, yet we are only beginning to understand how the collective activities of these molecules give rise to patterns at the cell and tissue scale. What are the properties of these networks that permit pattern formation? How are pattern boundaries established? What sets the scale of a pattern and how do pattern-forming networks adapt to the changes in the size and shape of cells and tissues that are inherent to the development process?

In the Developmental Systems Lab, we apply a multidisciplinary approach to uncover these and other fundamental design principles of pattern-forming systems. We currently focus on cell polarity networks, the core function of which is to induce asymmetric localization of molecular determinants within the cell along a specified axis. These intracellular patterns then serve as spatial templates for cell organization, allowing the cell to differentiate, for example, its front from its rear.

Failure of these pattern-forming networks leads to defects in numerous developmental processes, including cell migration (leukocytes), the orientation of cells with respect to their environment (epithelia), cell fate specification during asymmetric cell division (stem cells), and the generation of complex cell morphologies (neurons). By developing a systems-level understanding of pattern-formation by cell polarity networks, we hope to enable new therapies for the prevention and treatment of developmental defects and cancer.

Please visit our lab site at for more information.