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 About the Group

Research Staff

Jon Golding
Lecturer in Health Sciences

tomorrow people
Postdoctoral Researchers

Emma East

Postgraduate Students

Stanley Kimani

Melanie Georgiou

Project Officer

Tina Wardhaugh

Miguel Ardid
Dr. Elizabeth Latta

Why stripes?

Mouse Embryo Nervous System

Embryonic nervous system showing
segmented, "striped" appearance

Projects    Collaborative    Lifestyle    Funding    Links    Photos    Recent Publications    All Publications

 Who am I?   Where am I?

Multipotent cells in the embryo and stem cells in adults face similar challenges. They need to integrate signals from their environment in order to navigate and make cell fate decisions. These decisions are crucial for generating complex tissue architectures and ordered populations of specialised cells, both during the assembly of an animal in development and by stem cells as they repair/replace tissues in adulthood.
We attempt to understand the signals that allow an undifferentiated precursor/stem cell to determine where it is and where it should be going, and what it is and what it should become.

 Current Projects

Developmental Neurobiology: "Messing with your head"

Cranial neural crest cells are multipotent precursors that migrate from the hindbrain neural tube to generate the cartilaginous structures of the jaw and face, pigment cells of the skin, and much of the cranial peripheral nervous system. The migration of cranial neural crest cells is patterned into a series of cell streams, with intermediate crest-free zones. The hindbrain is similarly patterned into a series of segmented units, called rhombomeres (r), and is an obvious candidate source of neural crest patterning information.

Neural Crest Migration
Neural crest migration time-lapse

Lineage marking of crest populations
Selective labelling of crest populations

Cranial Neural Crest Pathways

ErbB4 signaling in r3 maintains the adjacent neural crest-free zone.
Loss of ErbB4 causes misrouting of r4 crest cells alongside r3

We study the mechanisms that maintain the segregation of cranial neural crest cell streams, ensuring that these cells get to their appropriate destinations in the developing head. Our work is aimed at understanding the identity of the neural crest patterning cues and how this information is transferred from the rhombomeres to the adjacent mesenchyme. We have found that patterning cues, important for maintaining the crest-free zone adjacent to r3, are provided by the receptor tyrosine kinase ErbB4 within r3 (see panels, above right). We have also found that cranial surface ectoderm is an independent source of information for patterning cranial neural crest cell migrations. How these two signaling modes interact is an ongoing topic of our research.

Neurogenesis in gVI Developmental Neurobiology:
Neurogenesis in the cranial ganglia

Neural crest can differentiate into neurons.
A major strand of our research involves developing a better understanding of the factors that dictate the position and regulate the size of clusters of placodal and neural crest-derived neurons (ganglia) as they form within the developing head.
For this work we temporarily modify gene expression within selected populations of crest cells, or chemically modify signal transduction pathways.
This highly-skilled work is done by Liz and is unveiling novel perspectives on the molecular and cell-dynamic bases of several human congenital cranio-facial abnormalities. This work benefits enormously from the excellent microscopy and imaging facilities available at the Open University.

(Left) A hotbed of neurogenesis.
As the nervous system begins to form, neurons in the vestibulo-acoustic ganglia of a chick embryo can be traced in 3-D by examining a series of confocal images of anti-neurofilament immunostaining.
Move your pointer over the image to play the animation.

Stem Cells for Repairing the Adult Nervous System

We are investigating the potential of transplanted adult neural crest stem cells to home to sites of brain injury. Our current data indicates that these cells home to injury sites and could be used for autologous stem cell therapy, either for neural repair or to deliver gene products. This work is in collaboration with colleagues at Imperial College London and is funded by the Medical Research Council.
In other work, involving Mark Hirst and Kerry Murphy, Tina is investigating the biology of adult stem cells in the progressive and fatal neurological condition, Huntington's disease.

(Right) MRI scans showing the progressive migration of transplanted adult neural crest cells (dark label in top panel, initially within the ringed areas) towards a focal brain injury (white arrow). Neurohistological analyses (D and E) confirm the migration of pre-labelled green neural crest stem cells to the injury site and their differentiation into appropriate CNS cell types (red label in D).


Transplanted adult neural crest cells home to sites of brain injury.

Selective targeting of a PDT sensitiser to cancer cells.
Selective targeting to cancerous cells of a novel PDT photo-sensitizer.

Selective detection and destruction of cancer

Many of the same molecular pathways that my group studies during development become dysregulated in tumours. In a collaborative venture between Jon Golding and James Phillips in Life Sciences, James Bruce in Chemistry, and clinical colleagues at University College London, we are developing a series of 3rd generation photodynamic therapy drugs, with improved selectivity for cancerous cells. Early work on this project by Miguel is now being perfected and expanded in several new and exciting directions by Stanley.

Localised PDT destruction of sensitized cancer cells. Localised PDT destruction of sensitized cancer cells. PI stained.

A simple 3-D glial interface.


Three-dimensional culture models of the nervous system

We are developing advanced 3-dimensional culture models of PNS and CNS lesions to better understand the complex cellular interactions that occur at sites of nerve injury and hinder regeneration. Additionally, we are using our 3D culture models to explore the potential of various adult stem cells to assist in the repair of adult nervous system lesions. Aspects of this work are currently funded by the Wellcome Trust and represent collaborative ventures between many colleagues at the Open University; notably the groups of James Phillips, Jane Loughlin and Jill Saffrey. This work is being done by Emma and you can discover more by following this link for the latest information

Jon, discussing our stem cell work with Colin Blakemore, the (then) Chief Executive of the Medical Research Council
Jon showing Colin Blakemore around the lab. Jon chatting with Colin Blakemore.

 Lifestyle  Funding Links

What's happening in Milton Keynes?
MK Web,  Xscape,  The Centre:MK

Science Faculty Research
Life Chem Earth Physics PSSRI CEPSAR

YES!, we do research at the OU.
Research Highlights 2009/10 (PDF).

If you're interested in postgraduate
or post-doctoral research at the
Open University, then please get in touch.

Work in the lab is currently funded by:
Wellcome Trust (£ 200,000)
Open University (£ 70,000)

Recent previous funds include:
Medical Research Council
(£ 171,700)
Open University (£ 10,000)

Developmental Biology web sites:
Developmental Biology Online

Selected Journals:
Stem Cells

Translational medicine web sites:
Spinal Research Trust
London Technology Network

How well do you know the OU? (YouTube)
Open University on iTunesU
Prestigious OU Life Sciences alumni


Click here to check out a selection of photos of our labs and MK life

        main lab main lab time-lapse tissue culture

 Recent Publications

  • East E, Golding JP, Phillips JB. (2009) A versatile 3D culture model facilitates monitoring of astrocytes undergoing reactive gliosis. Journal of Tissue and Regenerative Medicine. 3(8), 634-646. funded by Wellcome grant to Phillips/Golding

  • East E, Blum de Oliveira D, Golding JP, Phillips JB. (2009) Astrocyte alignment in 3D collagen gels increases neurite outgrowth; Implications for improving spinal cord repair. Tissue and Cell Engineering Society, 8-10th July, Glasgow. funded by Wellcome grant to Phillips/Golding

  • Kimani S, Phillips J, Bruce J, MacRobert AJ, Golding JP. (2009) Potentiation of AlPcS2 mediated Photodynamic therapy by energy metabolism inhibitors in human tumour cell lines. 13th Congress of the European Society for Photobiology. Wroclaw, Poland. funded by Open University studentship to Golding

  • Kimani S, Phillips J, Bruce J, MacRobert AJ, Golding JP. (2008) Glucosamine improves the efficiency of Photodynamic therapy (PDT). 7th International Symposium on Photodynamic Therapy and Photodiagnosis in Clinical Practice. Brixen/Bressanone, Italy. funded by Open University studentship to Golding

  • Latta E, Saffrey J, Golding JP. (2008) Midline1 and the development of the cranial peripheral nervous system. P196 Joint meeting of the British and Spanish Developmental Biology Societies. Seville, Spain. funded by Open University studentship to Golding

  • East E, Golding JP, Phillips JB. (2008) Monitoring reactive gliosis in 3-dimensional astrocyte cultures; a model of spinal cord damage. 838 Society for Neuroscience. Washington D.C. funded by Wellcome grant to Phillips/Golding

  • Jackson J, Golding JP, Chapon C, Jones W, Bhakoo KK. (2007) An in vivo model of epidermal neural crest cell migration after implantation into the brain. 137.12/G11 Society for Neuroscience. San Diego. funded by MRC grant to Golding

  • East E, Golding JP, Phillips JB. (2007) Modelling of the injured spinal cord using 3-dimensional cell cultures; strategies for improving tissue engineered repair. 600.7/BB3 Society for Neuroscience. San Diego. funded by Wellcome grant to Phillips/Golding

  • East E, Golding JP, Phillips JB. (2007) Increased GFAP immunoreactivity by astrocytes in response to contact with dorsal root ganglia cells in a 3D culture model. Neuron Glia Biology. 3(S1), S119. funded by Wellcome grant to Phillips/Golding

  • East E, Golding JP, Phillips JB. (2007) Development of a 3-dimensional in vitro model to study reactive gliosis following nervous system injury. Tissue Engineering. 13(7), 1668. funded by Wellcome grant to Phillips/Golding

  • Golding JP, Calderbank E, Partridge TA, Beauchamp JR. (2007) Skeletal muscle stem cells express anti-apoptotic ErbB receptors during activation from quiescence. Exp. Cell Res. 313(2), 341-356. funded by MRC grant to Golding

All Publications

All views expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the Open University

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