Centre for Health and Bioinformatics


Dr Michael Jackson

Senior Lecturer


After graduating with a BSc in Genetics from Nottingham in 1984, I did a PhD with Gabby Dover in Cambridge on P-element transposon regulation in Drosophila. I used P-elements as a mutagen to investigate quantitative trait variation during my first postdoctoral position, in Trudy MacKay’s lab in North Carolina State University, before returning to Cambridge in 1990 to work with Bruce Ponder. While there, I became involved in the Human Genome Project, and chose to focus on centromeric regions. These were proving refractory to standard mapping techniques, due to their low recombination rates and highly repetitive sequence organisation. In 1993 I was awarded a Royal Society University Postdoctoral Fellowship to continue this work, and I chose to take this up in Newcastle. As well as generating physical and sequence maps which form part of the human genome reference sequence I pursued my interest in processes underpinning molecular evolution, working on topics as diverse as gene conversion, chromosomal rearrangements in childhood cancers and, more recently, the function of circular RNAs. I am also involved in clinically oriented collaborations focusing on sequence instability within colorectal cancer.

Areas of expertise

  • Circular RNA
  • Genome instability
  • Cancer

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Research Interests

Genetics Instability in Cancer

I have a longstanding interest in the mechanisms underpinning genetic instability, as these can have a profound impact upon human development and disease pathology. Although a lot of this research has involved the childhood cancers neuroblastoma and medulloblastoma, current research involves utilising targeted sequencing approaches to investigate the impact of microsatellite instability in the context of Lynch syndrome, the most common inherited cancer predisposition. This work, in collaboration with Prof Sir John Burn, Dr Mauro Santibanez-Koref, and Prof Rakesh Heer, involves developing novel and cheap assays to detect microsatellite instability within tumours and liquid biopsy material, particularly urine, for tumour detection and surveillance. The aim is to enhance cancer detection early in disease progression, or earlier in the clinical pathway, to improve patient management and treatment. 

Circular RNA. Dynamics and Function

Circular RNAs (circRNAs) were first identified over 30 years ago, but until relatively recently have been assumed to be rare errors of normal splicing reactions. However, advances in sequencing technologies have established that thousands of genes generate circRNA isoforms and that they are the most abundant transcripts from some genes. There is evidence that some act as microRNA sponges, while some have been implicated in development and disease states such as cancer. Because they are much more stable than messenger RNAs, they may also act as useful biomarkers. I am currently involved in a collaboration with Dr Gavin Hudson and Dr Mauro Santibanez-Koref, investigating the potential of circRNAs as biomarkers in Parkinson's Disease, one of the most common neurodegenerative disorders.



Module Leader: BGM2058 Evolution.

Lecturer: BGM2057 Medical Genomics - From DNA to Disease.

Lecturer: MMB8030 Genetic Medicine.

Lecturer: BGM3062 Genetics of Development and its Disorders.

Seminar Lead: BGM1004 Genetics.

MRes Strand leader: Medical Genetics.