Hot Pink Swirly Bois

Our research aims to develop methodologies which will allow us to grow in large quantities haematopoietic (blood) stem cells and their downstream cell lineages for transplantation into sick patients. Embryonic stem cells (ESCs) have the capacity to make any cell in the body. Here we induce the differentiation of embryonic stem cells towards the blood lineages producing the blood stem cells. Ultimately these blood stem cells have the capacity to recolonise the bone marrow and reconstitute all the adult blood lineages in sick patients. However, we still need to understand more about embryonic stem cell and blood stem biology at both the cellular and genetic level in order to be able to optimise our culturing approach to attain the best blood stem cells for use in the clinic.

Body area Blood and immune system


The research aims to be able to grow blood which could be transfused into patients who are in need of blood transfusion. Furthermore, a better understanding of how embryonic stem cells and blood stem cells function will increase our understanding of how diseases derived from these cell types such as leukaemia occur. Finally, we use blood development as a model system to study wider gene regulatory control mechanisms. These mechanisms are often conserved across may different cell types and thus our work has wider impact across a range of scientific fields from biomedical research through to biotech.

reNEW research

The Elefanty Blood Development Group have managed to culture blood stem cells capable of implantation and have contributed to our understanding of the molecular mechanisms regulating the development of these cells. Going forward we aim to focus more closely on the genomic changes we see during the differentiation process of embryonic stem cells to blood at the genome wide level. We expect that studying the process at a genome wide resolution using many large datasets will improve our understanding of these processes.

Image description

In this photo ‘Hot Pink Swirly Bois’ we can see floating embryoid bodies from a day 4 differentiation. Initially, embryonic stem cells are plated into culture media containing key signalling factors and then they are left to swirl on a plate swirler. Subsequently these embryoid bodies form as perfect spheres floating in suspension. These cells are yet to commit to the blood lineage which would be reflected by them expressing blood lineage genes which act together in complex and dynamic intracellular gene regulatory networks. Traditionally, in the scientific literature cells that have committed to the blood cell types are depicted as being blood red… therefore I decided to show this pre-blood cell type in a spicy hot pink.


Dr Alexander Maytum, Elefanty Lab, Blood Development Group, MCRI