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Dr Iain Dykes

Pharmacy and Biomolecular Sciences

Faculty of Science

I am a molecular biologist with a background in embryonic development and genetics. I am particularly interested in the study of extracellular vesicles and non-coding RNA. Most of my current research relates to congenital heart disease (heart conditions present at birth), but I also study the skin and have previously worked in neuroscience.

CURRENT RESEARCH
The study of embryonic development has applications in both diagnostics and in therapeutics and I am currently working on projects in both these fields.

1. CONGENITAL HEART DISEASE DIAGNOSTICS (PhD students: Lesley Sloan, Petra Adamova)
Congenital Heart Disease (CHD) is the most common birth defect, affecting almost 1 in 100 newborn children. Prenatal diagnosis improves the prospects for these children in various ways. Currently, about half of CHD cases are missed during routine ultrasound screening. We are investigating whether a simple maternal blood test could be used for diagnosis. We recruit patients are Liverpool Women's Hospital and analyse extracellular vesicles and RNA within their blood. In parallel, we are investigating how these biomarkers are transported across the placenta into maternal blood using an in vitro model.
In a second project I have been working with CARE Fertility, an in vitro fertilisation clinic in Manchester. We are investigating whether there are any changes in pre-implantation embryos that might predict CHD risk.

2. RNA NANOPARTICLE THERAPEUTICS (PhD student: Adam Crockett)
Nanoparticles are synthetic particles resembling natural extracellular vesicles which can be used to deliver RNA-based drugs. I am part of a collaborative targeted doctoral programme investigating the use of such particles to treat disease. We investigate wound healing in skin.

PREVIOUS EXPERIENCE
Prior to joining LJMU I had a long and varied research career. I did my PhD at Sussex University, which has a strong record in the use of invertebrate model organisms to study neuroscience and behaviour. Electrical synapses permit fast transmission of impulses between neurons in the human brain, but these channels were first described in an invertebrate. As a PhD student, I discovered the genes for electrical synapses from one such model organism, the medicinal leech. I demonstrated electrical transfer across the channels by using a genetic trick to connect two frog eggs with the leech brain channels. I then moved to California for my first postdoc where I continued this work, discovering several more genes, before later switching to the mouse. The mouse is a good model of human genetics and embryonic development. I used "knockout" mouse lines and genomics technologies to investigate how the brain is built in the embryo. Returning to the UK, I then changed fields to begin work on the heart. During postdocs at UCL (Great Ormond St Institute of Child Health) and Oxford University (Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics) I used a variety of techniques including transgenic mice, CRISPR gene editing, working with embryonic stem cells and studying genetic inheritance in patients. This allowed me to identify two novel causative genes, which if mutated in patients lead to congenital heart disease. As a lecturer at Bristol University I began investigating epigenetic mechanisms of heart disease.

PhD SUPERVISION
Lesley Sloan (2024-27). Lead supervisor. In vitro model of placental transfer.
Adam Crockett (2023-26). Co-supervisor. RNA nanoparticle therapeutics in wound healing.
Petra Adamova (2020-24). Lead supervisor. Maternal blood biomarkers of pregnancy and congenital heart disease

SUMMER PLACEMENTS
Fayeeza Ali (2022) PBS departmental summer studentship. Lead supervisor.
Izzy Hartley (2023) PBS departmental summer studentship. Lead supervisor. Won first prize in department for her project on extracellular vesicle glycans.

HONOURS PROJECTS
I have supervised 5 MSc and 29 BSc project students at LJMU and 2 BSc project students at Bristol.

TEACHING
My teaching covers molecular biology, genetics, stem cells and embryonic development, neuroscience and cardiovascular disease. I lead three modules including the Embryology module on an MSc Clinical Embryology programme we run in collaboration with Care Fertility Manchester, an in vitro fertilisation clinic. I also lead Current Issues in Biomedical Science a module on the MSc Biomedical Science programme that focusses on current research in this field, and Introduction to Molecular Biology, a module taken by undergraduates on the Biochemistry and Biotechnology programmes. In addition, I deliver teaching on the MSc Industrial Biotechnology and BSc Biomedical Science programmes which includes lectures on gene editing and the genetics of heart disease.

Degrees

2020, Liverpool John Moores University, UK, Postgraduate Certificate in Academic Practise (Distinction)
2002, Sussex University, United Kingdom, Ph.D. Molecular biology
1997, University of Bristol, United Kingdom, B.Sc.Zoology

Certifications

2017, Higher Education Academy, Fellow

Academic appointments

Senior Lecturer in molecular biology, Liverpool John Moores University, 2018 - present
Lecturer in cardiovascular basic science, University of Bristol, 2016 - 2018
Postdoctoral research in congenital heart disease, University of Oxford, 2013 - 2016
Postdoctoral research in congenital heart disease, University College London (Great Ormond St Hospital Institute of Child Health), 2010 - 2013
Postdoctoral research in Neuroscience, University of California San Diego, 2002 - 2008

Poster

Markham S, Watts G, Campbell A, Dykes I, Montgomery S. 2024. Can morphokinetics at the preimplantation stage be used to identify embryos that will later develop congenital heart disease? Fertility 2024 Conference

Adamova P, Lotto R, Powell A, Dykes I. 2023. Maternal blood biomarkers for congenital heart disease UK EV Forum 2023, Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge

Adamova P, Lotto R, Powell A, Dykes I. 2022. Development of a non-invasive maternal blood test for congenital heart disease, Maternal Health Research Conference, Edge Hill University, Ormskirk

Journal article

Dykes IM, van Bueren KL, Scambler PJ. 2023. Corrigendum to “HIC2 regulates isoform switching during maturation of the cardiovascular system” [Journal of Molecular and Cellular Cardiology volume 114 (2018) P29-37/ https://doi.org/10.1016/j.yjmcc.2017.10.007, (S0022282817303310), (10.1016/j.yjmcc.2017.10.007)] Journal of Molecular and Cellular Cardiology, 183 :102 DOI Author Url Publisher Url

Adamova P, Lotto RR, Powell AK, Dykes IM. 2022. Are there foetal extracellular vesicles in maternal blood? Prospects for diagnostic biomarker discovery Journal of Molecular Medicine, DOI Author Url Publisher Url Public Url

Fawcett SA, Al Kassas R, Dykes IM, Hughes AT, Ghali F, Ross K. 2022. A Time to Heal: MicroRNA and Circadian Dynamics in Cutaneous Wound Repair Clinical Science, 136 :579-597 DOI Author Url Publisher Url Public Url

Dykes IM, Ross K. 2021. Restoring the Final Frontier: Exosomal MicroRNA and Cutaneous Wound Repair Biomolecular Research Reports, 2022 DOI Author Url Publisher Url Public Url

Adams E, McCloy R, Jordan A, Falconer K, Dykes IM. 2021. Direct Reprogramming of Cardiac Fibroblasts to Repair the Injured Heart Journal of Cardiovascular Development and Disease, 8 DOI Author Url Publisher Url Public Url

Turton N, Swan R, Mahenthiralingam T, Pitts D, Dykes IM. 2019. The Functions of Long Non-Coding RNA during Embryonic Cardiovascular Development and Its Potential for Diagnosis and Treatment of Congenital Heart Disease Journal of Cardiovascular Development and Disease, 6 DOI Author Url Publisher Url Public Url

Dykes IM, Szumska D, Kuncheria L, Puliyadi R, Chen C, Papanayotou C, Lockstone H, Dubourg C, David V, Schneider JE, Keane TM, Adams DJ, Brown SDM, Mercier S, Odent S, Collignon J, Bhattacharya S. 2018. A Requirement for Zic2 in the Regulation of Nodal Expression Underlies the Establishment of Left-Sided Identity Scientific Reports, 8 DOI Author Url Publisher Url Public Url

Dykes IM, van Bueren KL, Scambler PJ. 2018. HIC2 regulates isoform switching during maturation of the cardiovascular system. Journal of Molecular and Cellular Cardiology, 114 :29-37 DOI Author Url Publisher Url Public Url

Dykes IM. 2017. Exosomes in Cardiovascular Medicine Cardiology and Therapy, 6 :225-237 DOI Author Url Publisher Url Public Url

Dykes IM, Emanueli C. 2017. Transcriptional and Post-transcriptional Gene Regulation by Long Non-coding RNA. Genomics, Proteomics and Bioinformatics, 15 :177-186 DOI Author Url Publisher Url Public Url

Dykes IM, van Bueren KL, Ashmore RJ, Floss T, Wurst W, Szumska D, Bhattacharya S, Scambler PJ. 2014. HIC2 Is a Novel Dosage-Dependent Regulator of Cardiac Development Located Within the Distal 22q11 Deletion Syndrome Region CIRCULATION RESEARCH, 115 :23-31 DOI Author Url Publisher Url

Dykes IM. 2014. Left Right Patterning, Evolution and Cardiac Development. Journal of cardiovascular development and disease, 1 :52-72 DOI Author Url Publisher Url

Dykes IM, Tempest L, Lee S-I, Turner EE. 2011. Brn3a and Islet1 Act Epistatically to Regulate the Gene Expression Program of Sensory Differentiation JOURNAL OF NEUROSCIENCE, 31 :9789-9799 DOI Author Url Publisher Url

Dykes IM. 2010. A molecular study of regeneration in the CNS of the leech, Hirudo medicinalis.

Dykes IM, Lanier J, Eng SR, Turner EE. 2010. Brn3a regulates neuronal subtype specification in the trigeminal ganglion by promoting Runx expression during sensory differentiation NEURAL DEVELOPMENT, 5 DOI Author Url Publisher Url

Lanier J, Dykes IM, Nissen S, Eng SR, Turner EE. 2009. Brn3a Regulates the Transition from Neurogenesis to Terminal Differentiation and Represses Non-Neural Gene Expression in the Trigeminal Ganglion DEVELOPMENTAL DYNAMICS, 238 :3065-3079 DOI Author Url Publisher Url

Sun Y, Dykes IM, Liang X, Eng SR, Evans SM, Turner EE. 2008. A central role for Islet1 in sensory neuron development linking sensory and spinal gene regulatory programs NATURE NEUROSCIENCE, 11 :1283-1293 DOI Author Url Publisher Url

Eng SR, Dykes IM, Lanier J, Fedtsova N, Turner EE. 2007. POU-domain factor Brn3a regulates both distinct and common programs of gene expression in the spinal and trigeminal sensory ganglia NEURAL DEVELOPMENT, 2 DOI Author Url Publisher Url

Dykes IM, Macagno ER. 2006. Molecular characterization and embryonic expression of innexins in the leech Hirudo medicinalis DEVELOPMENT GENES AND EVOLUTION, 216 :185-197 DOI Author Url Publisher Url

Dykes IM, Freeman FM, Bacon JP, Davies JA. 2004. Molecular basis of gap junctional communication in the CNS of the leech Hirudo medicinalis JOURNAL OF NEUROSCIENCE, 24 :886-894 DOI Author Url Publisher Url

Dykes IM, Davies JA. 2004. Cloning and expression of a leech complexin GENE EXPRESSION PATTERNS, 4 :93-97 DOI Author Url Publisher Url

Dataset

Scambler P, Dykes I. 2011. Faculty Opinions recommendation of Zebrafish cardiac development requires a conserved secondary heart field. DOI Publisher Url

Scambler P, Dykes I. 2011. Faculty Opinions recommendation of Jerky/Earthbound facilitates cell-specific Wnt/Wingless signalling by modulating β-catenin-TCF activity. DOI Publisher Url

Scambler P, Dykes I. 2011. Faculty Opinions recommendation of Heartbeat regulates cardiogenesis by suppressing retinoic acid signaling via expression of miR-143. DOI Publisher Url

Scambler P, Dykes I. 2011. Faculty Opinions recommendation of Minor change, major difference: divergent functions of highly conserved cis-regulatory elements subsequent to whole genome duplication events. DOI Publisher Url

Research Grants Awarded:

Liverpool John Moores University (Thematic Doctoral Pathways), Transformative Peptide Chemistry for RNA Nanotechnology, Part of a team of 12 academics led by Dr Kehinde Ross, Grant value (£): £378,000 (6x PhD students). 2023

School of Pharmacy and Biomolecular sciences, LJMU (PBS Summer studentship scheme), Fluorescent extracellular vesicles for diagnostics and therapeutics, Grant value (£): 1750, Duration of research project: 3 months. 2022

Liverpool John Moores University (Institute of Health Research cross-faculty PhD scheme), Identification of blood biomarkers for antenatal diagnosis of a common congenital heart defect, Tetralogy of Fallot., Robyn Lotto, Andrew Powell, Grant value (£): £63,000 (PhD student). 2020

Liverpool John Moores University (Faculty of Science seedcorn funding), Non-invasive methods for diagnosis of congenital heart disease, Grant value (£): 10,000. 2019

Newlife Foundation for sick children, Exosome based signalling in the embryo and congenital heart disease, Grant value (£): £13,230, Duration of research project: 2 years. 2017

Conference presentation:

Development of a non-invasive maternal blood test for congenital heart disease, Maternal health conference, Edge Hill University, Poster presentation. 2022

Development of a non-invasive method for diagnosis of congenital heart disease based on analysis of embryonic-derived exosomes in the maternal circulation, Institute for health research conference, LJMU, Poster presentation. 2019

Teaching qualification:

Fellow of The Higher Education Academy (for work at LJMU). 2020

Staff and Educational Development Association Professional Development Framework Named Award In Learning, Teaching and Assessing. 2020

Postgraduate Certificate in Academic Practise (distinction). 2020

Fellow of The Higher Education Academy (for work at Bristol University). 2017

Associate Fellow of The Higher Education Academy (for work at Oxford University). 2016

Editorial boards:

Biomolecular Research reports, Editorial board member.

Frontiers in RNA Research - Non-coding RNA, Review Editor.

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