Institute for Cell and Molecular Biosciences

Staff Profile

Dr Ian Cowell

Staff Scientist

Background

Background

BSc and PhD from London University. Based in Newcastle from 1993 to 1998 and from 2003 to present and in Edinburgh from 1998 to 2003.

Qualifications

BSc (London, 1982)
PhD (London, 1989)

Previous Positions

May 2003 - May 2006
Research Associate, NICR, Newcastle University.

Nov 1998 – Feb 2003
Senior Research Associate, Roslin Institute (Edinburgh).

Jan 1997 - Nov 1998
Senior Research Associate, Department of Biochemistry and Genetics, Newcastle University.

Jan 1993 - Jan 1997
Wellcome Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Department of Biochemistry and Genetics, Newcastle University.

Oct 1989 - Jan 1993
Postdoctoral Research Associate, Imperial Cancer Research Fund Molecular Oncology Unit, Hammersmith Hospital, London.

Jan 1986 Oct 1989
Research Assistant, Biochemistry Department, University College and Middlesex School of Medicine.

Jan 1983 Jan 1986
Research Technician, Immunology Department, St George's Hospital Medical School, University of London.

Informal Interests

Photography
Walking

Research

Research Interests

My research interests fall into the areas of vertebrate gene regulation, nuclear organization and function and DNA repair. This is currently focussed on the following themes:

-Events leading to chromosomal translocation in leukaemia.

-Can standard cancer therapies by modified to avoid serious long-term side effects?

-Targeting DNA-repair proteins as a means on improving the efficacy of anti-cancer treatments

 

Other recent research falls into the following areas
-Histone modifications, including methylation and acetylation and changes in chromatin/nuclear organisation associated with DNA damage.
-Histone lysine methylation and the function of chromo-domain proteins.

Other Expertise

My areas of research expertise include:
- Fluorescence microscopy including quantitative and qualitative immunofluorescence, DNA FISH and 3D RNA FISH.
- Cell toxicity and growth inhibition assays (eg Clonogenic and XTT assays).
- Culture and manipulation of murine and human embryonic stem cells as well as other general cell biology techniques including siRNA knockdown.
- Antibody purification and other protein biochemical techniques.
- Molecular cloning techniques including the design and assembly of expression and other DNA constructs.
- General bioinformatics and IT expertise – this is currently increasing as we do more next-gen sequencing work.

Current Work

DNA topoisomerase poisons such as etoposide are commonly used and effective anticancer drugs that introduce a type of DNA damage involving covalent topoisomerase DNA (TOP2) adducts. This DNA damage underlies the cytotoxic anti-cancer activity of these agents. I am currently funded by the Leukaemia Research Fund to study the role of TOP2 in the aetiology of secondary leukaemia that sometimes occurs after cytotoxic anti-cancer therapy. We have recently shown one isoform of TOP2 is predominantly responsible for genotoxic damage leading to chromosome translocations and leukaemia. With our current LLR funding we are investigating ways to minimize genotoxic DNA damage to avoid these secondary leukaemias. In a second strand of funding, from the Breast Cancer Campaign (BCC), I have recently been awarded a studentship to test ways of protecting haematopoietic precursor cells from the genotoxic effects on cytotoxic anti-cancer agents with the aim of reducing secondary leukaemia cases following breast cancer therapy.

Teaching

Undergraduate Teaching

I contribute to 3rd year modules BMS3012 "Cancer Biology and Therapy" and BGM3024 "The Molecular Basis of Cancer", delivering lectures on carcinogenesis, apoptosis, DNA repair mechanisms and genome instability in cancer.

Postgraduate Teaching

PhD student supervision:

I am currently supervising three Postgraduate students.

Past postgraduate students:

2008-2012. The potential role of TOP2B in therapy related leukaemia. Student, Kayleigh Smith

2004-2007 Characterisation of DNA damage induced nuclear foci containing PML and TopBP1. Student, Nicola Sunter.

MSci/MRes

2014-2015 MSci Project: Investigating the individual roles of TOP2A and TOP2B in DNA damage induced by TOP2 poisons at the PML locus.

2012-2013 MSci project: Does CTCF contribute to chromosome translocations in leukaemia?

MSc research project supervision:
The Ki-67 protein interacts with members of the heterochromatin protein 1 (HP1) family: a potential role in the regulation of higher-order chromatin structure (1992). Student, Sjak van der Saar(In my previous post at the Roslin Institute).

Publications