Edinburgh Research Explorer

Mike McGrew

Senior Lecturer

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Phone: +44 (0)131 651 9163

Education/Academic qualification

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Boston University
Regulation of the Myosin Light Chain 3 (MLC3) promoter in cardiac and skeletal muscle
Bachelor of Science, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN, USA.

Current Research Interests

Biobanking and gene editing of avian germ cells.

Research Interests

Our interests lie in the formation of the avian germ cell lineage during embryogenesis. We seek to understand how germ cell lineage is first established, migrates and interacts with its niche in the forming gonad. A unique characteristic of germ cells is the ability to de-differentiate into pluripotent cells under certain culture conditions. We are attempting to understand the mechanisms controlling this process and derive avian cell lines which will be of use for the study of gene function and virology. This research will provide general insights into the establishment and maintenance of stem cell populations during development.

We have developed a distinct culture system for chicken primordial germ cells which allows these cells to be expanded indefinitely in vitro. This unique culture system has permitted us to establish primordial germ cell lines from many breeds of chicken for in vitro and in vivo analysis. These lines are being used to define the factors important for germ cell self-renewal, for genome editing, and for the cryopreservation (bio-banking) of avian species. 


Mike McGrew is a group leader at The Roslin Institute, UK. He obtained his PhD from Boston University and pursued a research program in embryology at the IBDM in France. There, he was part of a research group that discovered a basic mechanism controlling the timing of the formation of body segments in vertebrates, now known as the ‘segmentation clock’. Afterwards, he joined The Roslin Institute in 2001 to help develop transgenesis in chickens for use in developmental biology and bio-pharming.

His laboratory works on a type of stem cell in birds, the primordial germ cell, which makes the sperm and eggs of birds. These cells can be used to generate gene edited chickens, chicken which contain precise genetic changes in their genome.

A benefit of this research will be the technology to create bio-banks (frozen aviaries) using germ cells. This is needed as the traditional methods used for species cryopreservation using semen and eggs are either inefficient or impossible in birds. Avian bio-banks will aid in the efforts to both manage and conserve both rare and industrial breeds of poultry. The future challenge is to extend biobanking to endangered bird species.

Research activities & awards

  1. TEDxDeExtinction

    Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesPublic Engagement – Public lecture/debate/seminar

  2. Edinburgh International Science Festival

    Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesPublic Engagement – Public lecture/debate/seminar

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