Department: Comparative Biomedical Sciences

Campus: Camden

Research Groups: Immune Regulation and Cancer, Musculoskeletal Biology, Safe and Sustainable Food

Imelda is a Reader in Comparative Medicine. Her research focuses on diseases affecting humans and animals to identify common treatments. Current research falls in two areas: developmental disorders and cancer. Current projects involve zebrafish models for autism/brain overgrowth syndromes, Osteosarcoma and Tasmanian Devil Facial Tumour disease.

We currently have a number of projects that are using a combination of naturally occurring disease models, alongside more traditional models and in vitro techniques to investigate the molecular mechanisms of disease. These include:

1) Chiari malformation This is a developmental disorder that affects both humans and dogs, particularly brachycephalic breeds and involves a mismatch in the growth of the occipital skull and the brain. We currently have a Wellcome Trust funded project that focuses on the development of the cerebellum in TGFb signalling pathway mouse mutants as well as a PhD studentship funded by the RVC that is investigating the development of the occipital skull in the canine form of the disease.

2) Autism Autism is a significant developmental disorder that affects millions of children world wide. Common gene mutations are being identified in patients but the function of these genes are largely unknown. We are collaborating with colleagues at Kings College London to develop zebrafish models for these gene mutations in order to further investigate abnormalities in brain development and behaviour that result from these mutations.

3) Tasmanian Devil Facial Tumour Disease Tasmanian Devil Facial Tumour Disease is a schwann cell derived cancer that is decimating the Tasmanian Devil population. We are collaborating with colleagues at the University of Tasmania (UTAS) and Southampton University UK to identify gene mutations that are driving metastasis in this disease. We are interested in how gene that are known to be involved in immune system function might be directly driving cell migration.

4)Osteosarcoma This is a cancer that mainly affects young people but is also found with high incidence in dogs. We have been using a combination of human and dog samples to investigate the role of the gene Snail2 in the development of these tumours and are working to identify whether this could be a prognostic marker for the disease.

We are offering BSc and MSc projects in all of these areas so contact us for further information. Prospective PhD students are also encouraged to contact us for further information

Thompson IR, Mirczuk SM, Smith L, Lessey AJ, Simbi B, Sunters A, Baxter GF, Lipscomb VJ, McGonnell IM, Wheeler-Jones CP, Roberson M, Mukherjee A, McArdle CA, Fowkes RC. Molecular and pharmacological characterization of particulate guanylyl cyclases in GH3 somatolactotropes. Cell. Tiss. Res. (In press).


Bjerke L, Mackay A, Nandhabalan M, Burford A, Jury A, Popov S, Bax DA, Carvalho D, Taylor KR, Vinci M, Bajrami I, McGonnell IM, Lord CJ, Reis RM, Hargrave D, Ashworth A, Workman P, Jones C. (2013) Histone H3.3 Mutations Drive Pediatric Glioblastoma through Upregulation of MYCN. Cancer Discov. 2013 Mar 28.


Sharili AS, Allen S, Smith K, Price J, McGonnell IM. (2013) Snail2 promotes osteosarcoma cell motility through remodelling of the actin cytoskeleton and regulates tumor development. Cancer Lett. 333(2):170-9.


Staines KA, Pollard AS, McGonnell IM, Farquharson C, Pitsillides AA (2013). Cartilage to bone transitions in health and disease. J Endocrinol. 219(1):R1-R12.


El-Magd MA, Allen S, McGonnell I, Otto A, Patel K. (2013) Bmp4 regulates chick Ebf2 and Ebf3 gene expression in somite development. Dev Growth Differ. 55(8):710-22.


McGonnell IM, Grigoriadis AE, Lam EW, Price JS, Sunters A. (2012) A specific role for phosphoinositide 3-kinase and AKT in osteoblasts? Front Endocrinol (Lausanne). 20;3:88


Thompson IR, Chand AN, King PJ, Ansorge O, Karavitaki N, Jones CA, Rahmutula D, Gardner DG, Zivkovic V, Wheeler-Jones CP, McGonnell IM, Korbonits M, Anderson RA, Wass JA, McNeilly AS, Fowkes RC. (2012). Expression of guanylyl cyclase-B (GC-B/NPR2) receptors in normal human fetal pituitaries and human pituitary adenomas implicates a role for C-type natriuretic peptide. Endocr Relat Cancer. 19(4):497-508.


Shaw TA, McGonnell IM, Driver CJ, Rusbridge C, Volk HA. (2012). Increase in cerebellar volume in Cavalier King Charles Spaniels with Chiari-like malformation and its role in the development of syringomyelia. PLoS One. 2012;7(4):e33660.


McGonnell IM, Graham A, Richardson J, Fish JL, Depew MJ, Dee CT, Holland PW, Takahashi T. (2011) Evolution of the Alx homeobox gene family: parallel retention and independent loss of the vertebrate Alx3 gene. Evol Dev.13:343-51.


Bohnsack, B.L., Gallina, D., Thompson, H., Kasprick., D., Lucarelli, M.J., Dootz, G., Nelson, C., McGonnell, I.M., Kahana, A., (2011) Development of extraocular muscles require early signals from periocular neural crest and the developing eye. Archives Ophthalmol. 129:1030-41.


Sharili AS, Allen S, Smith K, Hargreaves J, Price J, McGonnell I. (2011) Expression of Snail2 in long bone osteosarcomas correlates with tumour malignancy. Tumour Biol. 32:515-26.


Thompson, H., Griffiths, JS. Jeffery, G. and McGonnell, I.M.(2010) The retinal pigment epithelium of the eye regulates the development of scleral cartilage. Dev Biol 347:40-52.


Driver, C. J., Rusbridge, C., Cross H.R., McGonnell, I. M. and Volk, H.A (2010). Relationship of Brain Parenchyma within the Caudal Cranial Fossa and Ventricle Size to Syringomyelia. J Small Animal Practice (In press)

Schmidt C, McGonnell IM, Allen S, Patel K (2008). The role of Wnt signalling in the development of somites and neural crest. Adv Anat Embryol Cell Biol.195:1-64.

Bannister R, McGonnell IM, Graham A, Thorndyke MC, Beesley PW (2008). Coelomic expression of a novel bone morphogenetic protein in regenerating arms of the brittle star Amphiura filiformis. Dev Genes Evol. 218:33-8.

Schmidt, C.*, McGonnell, I.M*#., Allen, S., Otto, A. and Patel K (2007). Wnt6 induces neural crest through the noncanonical signaling pathway. Dev Dyn: 236:2502-11. *joint 1st author. # corresponding author.

Haworth, K. E., Healy, C., McGonnell, I.M., Binns, M. and Sharpe, PT (2007). Characterisation of the genomic loci of canine Fgf-8 locus and screen for genetic variants in 4 dogs with different face types. DNA Seq. 18: 209-19.

Mount, J. G., Muzylak M., Allen, S., Althnaian, T., McGonnell, I. M., Price, J.S. (2006) Evidence that the canonical Wnt signalling pathway regulates deer antler regeneration. Dev. Dyn 235:1390-9.

McGonnell, I.M. and Fowkes, R. (2006). Fishing for gene function – endocrine modelling in zebrafish. J. Endocrinol. 189: 425-39.

Graham, A, Begbie, J. and McGonnell, I.M (2004). The significance of the cranial neural crest. Dev. Dyn. 229: 5-13.

Vermeren, M., Maro, G.S., Bron, R., McGonnell, I.M., Charnay, P., Topilko, P. and Cohen, J. (2003). Integrity of developing spinal motor columns is regulated by neural crest derivatives at motor exit points. Neuron 37: 403-415.

McGonnell, I.M. and Graham, A. (2002) Trunk neural crest has skeletogenic potential. Curr. Biol. 12: 767-771.

Walshe, J., Maroon, H., McGonnell I.M., Dickson, C. and Mason, I. (2002) Establishment of hindbrain segmental identity requires signaling by Fgf3 and Fgf8. Curr. Biol. 12: 1117-1123.

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