Cilia are small, hair-like extensions that protrude from the surface of cells. There are two basic types of cilia – motile and immotile. The best known example of motile cilia are those found in the lungs. These play a vital role in carrying mucus, and with it the dust and dirt we inhale, up and out of the lungs (the so-called “muco-ciliary escalator”). Another well-known example of motile cilia is the tails of sperm cells – while we call them flagellae these are actually very long motile cilia.
Immotile cilia (often known as primary cilia) are found all over the body and are involved in a number of signalling pathways and in facilitating certain kinds of sensation by cells (for example, urine flow in the kidney). Defects in cilia can lead to many different types of diseases (known collectively as ciliopathies) that affect various aspects of body patterning and functioning.
Our research aims to understand the genes and complex pathways underlying cilia functioning and the impact of defective cilia on both embryonic development and adult physiology.