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Professor Will J WoodBSc(Lond), PhD(Lond)

Professor of Developmental Biology

Will Wood

Professor Will J WoodBSc(Lond), PhD(Lond)

Professor of Developmental Biology

Member of

Research interests

Lab webpage:  www.bristol.ac.uk/cellmolmed/research/infect-immune/wood.html

Immune cells are critical for defending our bodies against infection and disease.  Specialist Immune cells must be able to detect and engulf invading micro-organisms and bacteria at sites of infection as well as launch an inflammatory response to damage signals generated at wound sites.    Whilst these responses are critical for the wellbeing of an individual, they can often go wrong causing a wide range of human diseases including chronic inflammation, atherosclerosis and autoimmunity. 

My lab uses Drosophila embryonic blood cells (hemocytes) as a model to study immune cell migration and chemotaxis in the context of a living organism. Hemocytes are large, macrophage-like cells that patrol tissues, recognising and engulfing apoptotic corpses in the embryo and pathogens in the larval and adult fly.

During embryonic development hemocytes leave their point of origin in the head mesoderm, and crawl along specified pathways to populate the entire embryo by late embryogenesis. This process is highly regulated and adheres to a developmental programme with cells always migrating along the same stereotypical pathways within the embryo. As well as undergoing these developmental migrations, embryonic hemocytes will also rapidly chemotax toward an epithelial wound in a process that closely resembles vertebrate inflammation.  Additionally, these multi-tasking cells will engulf and clear bacteria at sites of infection as well as apoptotic corpses that arise as part of normal embryonic development.

Using confocal live imaging and the powerful methods of experimental genetics available in Drosophila we are uncovering the signals that guide hemocytes during each of their migrations and how these immune cells are able to prioritize different cues within the complex setting of a 3-dimensional organism. We are studying the nature and regulation of the actin protrusions observed in hemocytes and are interested in understanding the molecular mechanism by which these cells are able to sense and polarise toward an attractive source, be it a wound, an apoptotic corpse, or the presence of bacteria at a site of infection.  

Blood cell migration during inflammation and infection

Cell movement is an essential process during both embryonic development and throughout adult life.  The failure of cells to migrate to their appropiate locations can result in severe abnormalities or disease.  It is therefore vital that the mechanism controlling cell migration is fully understood.

My lab uses Drosophila embryonic blood cells (hemocytes) as a model to study cell migration and chemotaxis in the context of a living organism.  Hemocytes are large, macrophage-like cells that patrol tissues, recognising and engulfing apoptopic corpses in the embryo and pathogens in the larval and adult fly.  During embryonic development hemocytes leave their point of origin in the head mesoderm, and crawl along specified pathways to populate the entire embryo by late embryogenesis.  This process is highly regulated and adheres to a developmental programme with cells always migrating along the same stereotypical pathways within the embryo.  As well as undergoing these developmental migrations, embryonic hemocytes will also rapidly chemotax toward an epithelial wound in a process that closely resembles vertebrate inflammation.  Additionally, these multi-tasking cells will engulf and clear bacteria at sites of infection as well as apoptotic corpses that arise as part of normal embryonic development.

Using confocal live imaging and the powerful methods of experimental genetics available inDrosophila we are uncovering the signals that guide hemocytes during each of their migrations and how these immune cells are able to prioritize different cues within the complex setting of a 3-dimenional organism.  We are studying the nature and regulation of the actin protrusions observed in hemocytes and are interested in understanding the molecular mechanism by which these cells are able to sense and potarise toward an attractive source, be it a wound, an apoptotic corpse, or the presence of bacteria at a site of infection.

Group members:

Dr Helen Weavers

Dr Anna Franz (shared with Professor Paul Martin)

Dr Kate Comber,

Dr Andrew Davidson

Dr Frederico Rodriguez

 

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Postal address:
Biomedical Sciences Building
University Walk
Clifton
Bristol
United Kingdom

Selected research outputs

  1. Published

    Ecdysone mediates the development of immunity in the Drosophila embryo

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  2. Published
  3. Published

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