We use many imaging approaches to track the molecular and cellular changes that accompany and steer cell fate decision and apply data science approaches and mathematical modeling to understand the regulation of cell fate. 

We hope that our work will help to improve immunotherapies for cancer and infectious diseases, and to understand how leukaemia occurs when development goes wrong.  

Key for our research approach is to develop and apply new imaging and computational approaches; for this reason, the lab is partly co-located across the Optical Sciences Centre at Swinburne University and the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre.

Our research projects

Single-cell pedigree analysis to understand the mechanisms of fate determination during T cell immune responses 

Programming of cell fate determination underpins the appropriate development of all cells. The molecular players involved in fate decisions have been well catalogued, but the principles by which molecular and cellular changes are integrated to steer such decisions are not yet clear. We have developed new methods for imaging single cells and their progeny through many generations of T cell development and activation. These methods mean that we can now assemble pedigrees that describe both the relationships between different differentiation stages and molecular and behavioural attributes of their ancestors and progeny. We are now developing new computational approaches to analyse these pedigrees and to determine the relative contributions of genetic, epigenetic, extrinsic and stochastic influences on fate determination. 

Mimicking T cell development in a dish to understand it 

T cells are created during early development in the thymus, a tiny organ between the lungs. As the developing T cell travels through the thymus, it receives different cues that dictate life and death decisions in its progress towards a functional, mature T cell. We have developed new methods to recreate these cues, with the goal of both understanding T cell developmental biology and ultimately creating T cells in a dish for therapeutic use. Over the last 15 years, we have developed new imaging, computational and mathematical tools with which to understand T cell development and to determine how it goes awry in T cell leukemia and immune diseases.

Our team

  • Mirren Charnley (Senior Postdoctoral Fellow)
  • Anchi Chang (PhD student)
  • Khelina Fedorchuk
  • Caleb Lau
  • Nguyen Tran
  • Vaibhav Dhyani (Indian Institute of Technology, Hyderabad (IITH) joint PhD student)
  • Prof Sarah Russell

Explore our other research programs

Contact the Optical Sciences Centre

There are many ways to engage with us. If your organisation is dealing with a complex problem, get in touch to discuss how we can work together to provide solutions. Call us on +61 3 9214 8096 or email osc@swinburne.edu.au.

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