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Prof Jeremy Brockes
ISMB, Darwin Building
Gower Street
Prof Jeremy Brockes profile picture
  • Emeritus Professor
  • Structural & Molecular Biology
  • Div of Biosciences
  • Faculty of Life Sciences

I received my PhD at Edinburgh University in molecular biology. After  post-doctoral periods in the Department of Neurobiology at Harvard (with Zach Hall), and the Department of Zoology at UCL (with Martin Raff), I joined the Division of Biology at Caltech in 1978 as an Assistant Professor. I returned to the UK to the MRC Biophysics Unit at KCL in 1983, then the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, and since 1998 the Department of Biochemistry at UCL – now renamed Structural and Molecular Biology. Since 1997 I have held Programme Grant support from the MRC as well as a concurrent MRC Research Professorship. I was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1994. My initial interests as an independent investigator were in cellular interactions in the mammalian peripheral nervous system, and led to an antibody-based method for purifying cultured Schwann cells, and the identification of Glial Growth Factor (GGF), an early member of the neuregulin family.  I became interested in salamander regeneration, particularly limb regeneration, at Caltech and I have worked on several different aspects, always from a basic science perspective.

Research Summary

see my web site at Structural and Molecular Biology as above

The most extensive repertoire of regenerative ability in adult vertebrates is found in the various species of salamander.My interests are in the cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying regeneration in salamanders, particularly limb regeneration. Limb regeneration proceeds by formation of the limb blastema, a mound of mesenchymal stem cells. The distinctive questions center around the origin and identity of the blastema. How does it arise by reprogramming of differentiated cells at the amputation plane? How is growth of the blastema regulated by the requirement for concomitant regeneration of peripheral nerves? How is the positional identity of blastemal cells determined ?

Recent work has identified molecules that are implicated in positional identity and nerve dependence. This has also provided an explanation of how nerve dependence is established in the development of the limb. Our interest in reprogramming in this context centers on the regulation of tumor suppressor genes in regeneration which seems to be critical for the early stages.

The most difficult questions of all are to understand regeneration as an evolutionary variable. Why can a salamander regenerate its limb and why does a mammal lack this ability? Our evidence from molecular phylogeny suggests that regeneration may have evolved locally in salamanders, rather than being a purely ancestral mechanism. This viewpoint of local evolution is strongly supported by recent transcriptomic and proteomic analysis by other laboratories. This is turn raises questions about the roles of salamander-specific gene products, and suggests new strategies for promoting regeneration in mammals.

Teaching Summary

Teaching second and third year molecular biology I give lectures on various topics in third year and tutorials in second year, as well as taking third year students for lab and literature projects.

01-APR-1997 – 31-MAR-2016 MRC Non-clinical Research Professor ISMB UCL, United Kingdom
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