Associate Professor Robyn Meech

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19962021

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Personal profile

Research Biography

Dr Robyn Meech obtained a Bachelor of Science from Flinders University in 1991. She received her honours degree in 1992 and undertook PhD studies in the Department of Clinical Pharmacology from 1994-1997.

In 1997 Robyn moved to San Diego, California to undertake postdoctoral studies at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI). She was promoted to junior faculty level in 2002. She has been awarded 3 grants from the United States National Institutes of Health (NIH) including an ongoing R01 grant which is shared with collaborating researchers at TSRI. She returned to Australia in 2008 and maintains active collaborations in Australiaand overseas.

Research Interests

  1. Homeobox genes in development and stem cell function:
    Homeobox proteins control cell-type specification and tissue patterning in embryogenesis and also have roles in adult stem cell mediated-regenerative processes. The Barx homeobox family are involved in survival, proliferation and differentiation of muscle, skin and possibly cancer stem cells. Studies of Barx2 in muscle development, repair and aging are currently funded by an NIH R01 grant and involves collaborations at the Scripps Research Institute in San Diego.
  2. Wnt effector pathways in stem cells:
    The Wnt signaling pathway plays a major role in development and in adult stem cell function; its deregulation is also implicated in both aging and cancer. We are interested in factors that lend specificity to the transcriptional effector complex (b-catenin/TCF) that regulates gene expression downstream of the canonical wnt signalling pathway. Our recent work shows that Barx genes are "specificity regulators" that may control the transcriptional effects of wnt signals in muscle and other tissues.
  3. Cancer stem cells:
    It is currently believed that dysregulated tissue specific stem cells can initiate tumour formation and that within any tumour, there is a subset of cells that retain stem cell properties and can give rise to new tumours if they escape and are disseminated to distal sites (metastasis). Many cancer cell lines also appear to harbor cells with such stem cell characteristics. One characteristic of stem cells is that they are slow-dividing or even quiescent whilst in their niche. In tumours, this slow-dividing property may allow cancer stem cells to escape the effects of anti-cancer drugs that target rapid cell proliferation. We are working on molecular approaches to label and isolate breast cancer stem cells and characterize wnt pathways, homeobox proteins (Barx) and estrogen signalling. This work is supported by a FMC foundation grant.

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