PhD Scholarship Top-up student profile: Jonathan Marks-Bluth

Bmp signalling regulates distinct stages of blood formation during embryonic development

Award:  Jono is a recipient of a two-year PhD Scholarship Top-up

Supervisor: Dr John Pimanda, Senior Lecturer UNSW & Stem Cell Group Team Leader, Lowy Cancer Research Centre

Jono is investigating the different requirements for a key signalling molecule, Bmp4, at the various stages of embryonic blood development. Blood cells form at several time points across separate locations during embryogenesis, with the haematopoietic (blood) stem cells that generate the blood system of the adult forming last. Using genetic knockout mice alongside sophisticated cellular assays to examine blood formation, Jono will explore the impact of Bmp4 signalling on these processes.  This research uses molecular techniques to identify the factors that cooperate with Bmp4, adding to our understanding of how signalling pathways interact, and how cellular environments shape embryonic development.

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How will your research translate to improvements in patient care?

Improving our understanding of how hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) are generated in the embryo is crucial for making progress in developing novel regenerative medicine protocols for the in vitro production of HSCs. HSCs have enormous therapeutic potential in treating diseases such as leukaemia, and can be transplanted for such purposes. However there are many situations where a suitable donor cannot be found and the patient-specific production of HSCs would be beneficial. In order to develop protocols to produce HSCs for these patients we need to define the signalling pathways that regulate the process in vivo, and that is where our research comes in. 

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“By bringing together clinicians and basic scientists, the TCRN will broaden my research horizons and help me identify research projects with translational impact. The TCRN also facilitates knowledge sharing across disciplines and disease areas which opens up new collaborations and ways of thinking, as well as sponsoring conference travel to help us promote our findings. Ultimately research is about improving patient outcomes, and the TCRN offers great opportunities to help researchers do so.” 

Jono completed his third year of PhD studies at the Prince of Wales Clinical School, UNSW in 2012.

 TCRN PhD Scholarship Top-up awardee Jonathon Marks-Bluth