Fellow Profile: Yanlan Mao

We would like to introduce the Lister community to one of our distinguished 2018 Research Prize Fellows, Dr. Yanlan Mao from the Medical Research Council (MRC) Laboratory for Molecular Cell Biology (LMCB).

Dr. Mao is a graduate of the University of Cambridge, where she acquired both a Bachelor’s Degree in Natural Sciences and a PhD in Developmental Biology and Genetics.

During her PhD she began working with the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, beginning a long and mutually-beneficial association with the organisation.

Following a Postdoctoral Fellowship at Cancer Research UK London Research Institute (CRUK LRI) where Dr. Mao was funded by an MRC Biomedical Informatics Fellowship, she began working at the LMCB at University College London (UCL), where she now focuses her time on developmental biophysics, specifically the mechanisms that affect tissue growth and regeneration.

For her outstanding contributions to progress in her field, Dr. Mao was awarded an Excellence Fellowship at UCL during her work from 2013 to 2016, when she started her own research group. Following this she was also given an MRC Career Development Award that currently supports her work.

Today Dr. Mao’s laboratory performs cutting edge, interdisciplinary research on tissue growth and regeneration. Her team is interested in the mechanisms and processes by which tissues acquire the correct size and shape in order to inform new methods and approaches to analysis, interventions and therapies in this important area.

A number of processes are studied, including changes that occur during both normal tissue development and periods of regenerative growth. As an experienced biomedical researcher with a background in several over-lapping specialisms, Dr. Mao has brought a broad, interdisciplinary approach to research challenges and opportunities relating to tissue formation.

Her team deploys a range of combinatory techniques including Drosophila genetics, live imaging, automated image analysis, multiple forms of microscopy, experimental biophysics, engineering and computational modelling. This multi-faceted approach allows a fuller understanding of the different mechanical forces that affect cells during tissue growth.

In addition, these insights are also enabling better investigations into how the physical forces can influence gene expression and signaling pathways. Despite many years of research on the genetic and biochemical controls affecting tissue growth and regeneration, the link between mechanical forces exerted on cells and the final structure of tissues is still unclear – but thanks to Dr. Mao’s team, this problem is being addressed today.

The Lister Institute is very pleased to have played a role in supporting Dr. Mao’s important work on tissue growth and generation. As the holder of a 2018 Research Prize Dr. Mao passed a rigorous selection process from a large pool of applicants. The funding she has secured from the Institute will support her laboratory in a number of ways over the coming years, and we are very excited to hear more about her important research work in the future.