Laboratory of Mammalian Molecular Embryology
Department of Biology and Biochemistry, University of Bath, England
The mechanisms by which sperm and egg are transformed into
an embryo during fertilisation and the elucidation of useful applications
The question at the centre of our research is How do sperm and egg transform into an embryo during fertilisation?
This is still really unknown for any species. We study the problem in the mouse partly because it is possible to make experimental changes to mouse embryos to see what happens, partly because changes in the embryos of simpler models (such as flies) occur too quickly to study easily, and partly because the biology of mouse fertilisation is so relevant to humans. We are strongly motivated to improve human wellbeing through our work.
The formation of a new embryo is extraordinarily complex - which is one reason why we know so little about it. It helps to break the problem down into more manageable pieces, such as how genes are switched on, how the cell cycle is regulated and how different signalling processes occur. But these distinctions are for convenience only: in practice, the processes are seamlessly integrated, with the result that a new embryo emerges. This integration is something we bear in mind very carefully. Our experimental approach attempts to bring together different disciplines to study early embryos. They include not only embryology, genetics, developmental and cell biology (traditional subjects for fertilisation biologists) but new contributions from physics and chemistry. We hope that combining these different ways of looking at the problem will help answer our question: How do sperm and egg transform into an embryo during fertilisation?