Edinburgh Research Explorer

Prof Wendy Bickmore

Director of Human Genetics Unit

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Education/Academic qualification

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), University of Edinburgh
Bachelor of Arts, University of Oxford


Wendy Bickmore is the Director of the MRC Human Genetics Unit, Institute of Genetics and Molecular Medicine at the University of Edinburgh.  After an undergraduate degree in Biochemistry at Oxford, she obtained her PhD at Edinburgh University.  During postdoctoral training, she became fascinated by the structure and organization of chromosomes in the nucleus and as an independent fellow of the Lister Institute of Preventive Medicine (1991-1996) she went on to show that different human chromosomes have preferred positions in the nucleus, related to their gene content. As an MRC group leader she then investigated how individual genes are organized and packaged in the nucleus and how they move in the cell cycle and during development. Current research in Wendy Bickmore’s laboratory focuses on how the spatial organization of the nucleus influences genome function in development and disease. Wendy is an EMBO member and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and of the Academy of Medical Sciences. She is an editor on many journals including PLoS Genetics and Cell and is the President-Elect of the Genetics Society.

My research in a nutshell

Despite its immense length, the linear sequence map of the human genome is an incomplete description of our genetic information. This is because information on genome function and gene regulation is also encoded in the way that the DNA sequence is folded up with proteins within chromosomes and within the nucleus. Our work tries to understand the three-dimensional folding of the genome, and how this controls how our genome functions in normal development and how this may be perturbed in disease. 

We take a multidisciplinary approach, using cytological, genetic and biochemical methods to understand genome spatial organisation. However, a main feature of our work is the use of visual assays to investigate how the genome is folded up. To do this we combine fluorescence in situ hybridisation (FISH) and digital microscopy with the use of automated image analysis software.

We examine the spatial organisation of human and mouse chromosomes and genes in the nucleus and how this organisation is changed, for example, during development and in certain genetic diseases. We use microscopy to follow the folding path of specific gene loci as they are activated or switched off, and to identify the proteins that bring about this folding.  We also use the tools of synthetic biology to artifically control the expression or silencing of genes, to test our hypotheses.

Highlighted research outputs

  1. Developmentally regulated Shh expression is robust to TAD perturbations

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  2. Decreased enhancer-promoter proximity accompanying enhancer activation

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  3. Nuclear pore density controls heterochromatin reorganization during senescence

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  4. Histone H3 globular domain acetylation identifies a new class of enhancers

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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