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Personal profile


Dr Duncan Sproul is a programme leader and CRUK Career Development Fellow at the MRC Human Genetics Unit and MRC Institute of Genetics and Molecular Medicine.  Duncan studied Genetics at the University of Edinburgh before being awarded an MRC pre-doctoral fellowship to undertake a PhD on the regulation of gene clusters with Prof Wendy Bickmore at the MRC Human Genetics Unit. During his postdoctoral training at the Edinburgh Breakthrough Breast Cancer Research Unit with Dr Andrew Sims, Duncan applied emerging epigenomic technologies to understand the role of epigenetic dysfunction in breast carcinogenesis. He joined the MRC Human Genetics Unit in 2013 as a research fellow and was awarded a Career Development Fellowship from CRUK in 2016. He is also an alumnus of the Scottish Crucible.

My research in a nutshell

My research aims to understand the role of epigenetics in human disease. 

DNA does not exist in isolation in our cells but is packaged with proteins and marked by chemical modifications. These modifications, known as epigenetic marks, signpost the DNA and are believed to help cells switch their genes on and off. For example, epigenetics ensures that the genes that make haemoglobin are switched on in blood cells but not brain cells. My work seeks to understand the mechanisms responsible for placing epigenetic marks on a particular gene and how they might go wrong in diseases such as cancer.

My laboratory particularly focuses on understanding the repressive epigenetic mark DNA methylation in human disease.

The key questions in the lab are:

1. What drives DNA methylation alterations in cancer?

2. Which mechanisms underpin DNA methylation variation in human populations?

Our research focuses on understanding these questions using an interdisciplinary combination of computational and laboratory biology. We apply machine-learning techniques to define molecular epigenomic signatures in patient cohorts and dissect the mechanisms underpinning these signatures using genome-editing techniques in experimental models. While we principally work on DNA methylation in cancer, we also collaborate with other groups to understand the role of epigenetics in human disease much more widely.



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