Dr Nowlan has accepted a Professorship position in the School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering at University College Dublin (UCD), Ireland, with effect from January 2021. Her web profile at UCD can be found here. For the next few years, the Developmental Biomechanics group will be split between London and Ireland, with plenty of travel between (once feasible). Niamh is excited about this new opportunity and for what the future holds for the research group and programme!
Congratulations to Devi (together with collaborators Rebecca and Colin Boyle) on publication of her paper entitled “Quantifying the tolerance of chick hip joint development to temporary paralysis and the potential for recovery” in Developmental Dynamics.
In this paper, we wanted to discover when- and for how long- fetal movements are most important for development of the hip joint, in order to better understand conditions affecting the skeletons of babies who may have had restricted or reduced movements in utero, including developmental dysplasia of the hip (where the hip joint is unstable) and arthrogryposis (multiple joint contractures). We also wanted to know if joint development can be “rescued” by external manipulation even when immobilised.
We varied the initiation and duration of drug-induced paralysis in the chick embryo, and found that a three day period between 4 and 7 embryonic days was most important for hip joint shape. In terms of hip joint development, this timeline is equivalent to roughly 10 to 12 gestational weeks in humans, and means that the end of the first trimester would be a useful time for targeted screening for arthrogryposis and hip dysplasia. We found that cavitation was more dependent on duration of paralysis, rather than timing.
When we externally manipulated the immobilised chick limbs, the hip joints had more normal shapes, and more normal progression of cavitation, compared to the contralateral limbs of the same chicks. This implies that the developing limb has the potential to recover from periods of immobility, and external manipulation provides an innovative avenue for prevention and treatment of developmental joint pathologies.
The full paper is available open-access here. The research was funded by ERC Starting Grant #336306.
Huge congratulations to Vivien (soon to be Dr Sotiriou) for passing her PhD viva in September 2020! Thank-you to the examiners Prof Malcolm Logan from King’s College London and Dr Neal Bangerter for a thoughtful and in-depth virtual viva. Thanks also to the group and alumni who joined the virtual celebrations afterwards!
Saima is leaving our group and we will miss her so much! We are excited however to continue working on all the lovely data and papers in preparation. Saima will start studying medicine in the Autumn, and we wish her the very best in her studies.
Saima‘s paper funded by the ERC characterising the collagens in the developing skeletal rudiment was published in eCM. We used immuno-fluorescence to look at the major and minor collagens in sections of the humerus at TS22 (e13.5, before formation of the primary ossification centre), TS25 (e15.5) and TS27 (e17.5).
Several collagens change substantially with the progression of the ossification centre, like for example Col V.
Some develop amazingly complex structures over the period of development studied, like Col II (green) and XI (grey).
Congratulations Saima on this beautiful work!
Big congratulations to Devi, who passed her PhD viva. Her thesis is entitled “The role of movement in early embryonic joint development”. Many thanks to the examiners, Prof Neil Vargesson and Dr Angela Kedgley. Devi is now studying graduate entry medicine at King’s College London so will be a double-doctor in a few years time! Well done Devi!
Best wishes to Aurélie, who is finishing up in the group. We had a lovely send-off for her in South Kensington with lunch and ice-cream from Oddono’s! Lucky for us, Aurélie isn’t moving too far away, and will be doing some exciting research in David Labonte‘s group, also in the Department of Bioengineering.
** March 2020: Update- Aurélie was awarded a Marie Curie Skodowska fellowship to return to her native France- Congratulations Aurélie!! **
Vivien‘s first first-author paper entitled “Effects of Abnormal Muscle Forces on Prenatal Joint Morphogenesis in Mice” has been published in the Journal of Orthopaedic Research. The paper characterises the effects of absent or reduced muscle on prenatal development of the major synovial joints. Vivien used image registration to qualitatively and quantitatively compare joint shapes between muscleless, reduced-muscle and normal mice. Different joints were affected more than others, and what we found most interesting is that a reduction in muscle often led to *more* severe effects than no muscle- like in the humeral distal condyles (blue: control, yellow: reduced-muscle, purple: muscleless)
The Developmental Biomechanics group headed en masse to a sunny and hot Barcelona for the EMBO Workshop on Limb Development and Regeneration: New Tools for a Classic Model System. Niamh and Yuming gave talks while Devi, James, Josepha, Nidal, Pati (our talented MEng project student!) and Vivien presented posters. Devi and Pati also gave flash talks to highlight the work in their posters. The group enjoyed sampling the lovely Catalan food and the sea swimming right beside the conference venue!
Niamh presented an invited talk at the 9th International Conference on Children’s Bone Health (ICCBH) in Salzburg from the 22-25th June 2019. The meeting provided an interesting forum for presenting the group’s research as many of the participants are from an endocrinology background.