Switching genes on and off during haematopoiesis
Prof. Doug Higgs | Professor of Haematology, Director of the MRC Molecular Haematology Unit and Director of the Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine at the University of Oxford, UK

How are genes regulated during blood formation? Can we disentangle the genetics of unexplained anemias when no variants are found in candidate genes? How can we alleviate the clinical phenotypes of patients with different blood disorders?
Doug Higgs is a leader in the field and focuses on basic and clinical aspects of haematopoiesis, combining knowledge from tissue culture, animal models and human patients with a translational goal of manipulating gene expression in blood disorders to improve human health. A main focus has been on globin genes where all aspects of regulation of gene expression during lineage commitment are explored to the smallest details. This is achieved through a combination of biochemistry, molecular genetics, bioinformatics and imaging with the ultimate goal of developing a model of how genes are regulated in the chromatin landscape.
Douglas Higgs has his medical degree from King’s College Hospital and trained as a haematologist. He joined the MRC Molecular Hematology Unit in 1977. He is a fellow of the Royal Society and he has been awarded Buchanan Medal in 2013 for his work on human alpha-globin genes and ATRX protein in disease. Higgs has focused on the mechanisms of how stem cells differentiate to blood cells and his laboratory discovered the molecular genetics of the most common inherited anaemia, alpha thalassemia.
Selected publications
  • Mettananda S, Fisher CA, Sloane-Stanley JA, Taylor S, Oppermann U, Gibbons RJ, Higgs DR. 2017. Selective silencing of α-globin by the histone demethylase inhibitor IOX1: a potentially new pathway for treatment of β-thalassemia. Haematologica, 102 (3), pp. e80-e84.
  • Hay D, Hughes JR, Babbs C, Davies JOJ, Graham BJ, Hanssen L, Kassouf MT, Marieke Oudelaar AM, Sharpe JA, Suciu MC et al. 2016. Genetic dissection of the α-globin super-enhancer in vivo. Nat Genet, 48 (8), pp. 895-903.
  • Hughes JR, Roberts N, McGowan S, Hay D, Giannoulatou E, Lynch M, De Gobbi M, Taylor S, Gibbons R, Higgs DR. 2014. Analysis of hundreds of cis-regulatory landscapes at high resolution in a single, high-throughput experiment. Nat Genet, 46 (2), pp. 205-212.
  • Law MJ, Lower KM, Voon HP, Hughes JR, Garrick D, Viprakasit V, Mitson M, De Gobbi M, Marra M, Morris A et al. 2010. ATR-X syndrome protein targets tandem repeats and influences allele-specific expression in a size-dependent manner. Cell, 143 (3), pp. 367-378.