Alumni news

Sidney and epigenetics

Sidney alumnus Julian Gough, Professor of Bioinformatics at the University of Bristol, recently got in touch with the College to share news of exciting research that has a much older Sidney connection.

With research collaborators Professor Gough has been working on a computational system to predict how to create different human cell types. Their system, called Mogrify, echoes work by former Sidney Sussex student Conrad Waddington (1905-75), who studied Natural Sciences in Cambridge in the 1920s. Waddington took up a Fellowship at Christ’s College and after the war became Professor of Animal Genetics at the University of Edinburgh. There he worked on visualising what he termed epigenetics, attempting to understand the various influences on cell development.

Professor Gough’s team’s research, published in Nature Genetics, models the different causes of variations within and between human cell types. They hope the work will allow experimental biologists to direct the development of so-called pluripotent stem cells, so that scientists can better control the types of cells that they will become. This will enable scientists to develop such cells to order, as it were, reprogramming developing cells from one future type to another and maybe even growing organs – with the added significance that such cells and organs can be developed from an individual’s own cells.

You can read more about the research by following the link to the University of Bristol news website and a biography of Waddington on the Christ’s College website.  Nature Genetics has also provided a blog post explaining Waddington's visualisation of an epigenetic landscape, and its relationship to the Mogrify system.

For further information please contact the Fellow Communications Officer, Dr Tom Lambert (

This is an archived news story first posted in March, 2016