Research Biographies

back to contents


Genome Regulation

Director: MRC Human Genetics Unit


Professor Wendy Bickmore

Contact Details

E-mail address:
Telephone: +44 (0)131 651 8583
Fax: +44 (0)131 651 8800
Address: MRC Human Genetics Unit MRC IGMM, University of Edinburgh Western General Hospital, Crewe Road, Edinburgh EH4 2XU
Research Programme: Spatial Organisation of the Human Genome




Wendy Bickmore is a Principal Investigator at the MRC Human Genetics Unit, The MRC Institute of Genetics and Molecular Medicine at the University of Edinburgh, and from 1st August 2015 takes up the post of Director of the MRC Human Genetics Unit. 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 from 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.


Academic Qualifications

  • Bachelor
    • 1983, Bachelor of Arts, University of Oxford
  • Doctorate
    • 1986, Doctor of Philosophy, PhD, University of Edinburgh


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.