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The Murphy Lab

Professor Paula Murphy
Tel: + 353 1 896 3780
Fax: +353 1 677-8094
Google Scholar: Paula Murphy

PhD opportunity available in the Developmental Biology Research Group

A PhD scholarship is available for a student with a background in animal biology or bioengineering, preferably having specialised in developmental biology, genetics, physiology, biomedical sciences or molecular biology. For more information please click here.

Research Profile

Dr Murphy began her studies in genetics, graduating from the Genetics Department in Trinity College Dublin. The choice to specialise in Developmental Biology followed the opportunity to participate in a summer project in the Department of Genetics and Development at Cornell University, USA, and she undertook the research for her doctorate with the Medical Research Council Human Genetics Unit in Edinburgh, Scotland, examining a set of homeobox genes and their possible roles in the mammalian embryo. Two post-doctoral research fellowships brought experience in different aspects of embryology and development; the first in the area of muscle development in the University of Rome “La Sapienza” (with an EMBO long-term fellowship) and the second, focusing mainly on the peripheral nervous system at the “Ecole Normale Superieur”, Paris (Human Fronteirs Science Programme fellowship). She then took a research position in the Biotechnology Centre of Oslo before returning, first to Edinburgh and then to the current post and research in Trinity.


Developmental Biology: Research overview

Developmental biology is concerned with the mechanisms and processes that sculpt a complex organism from a single fertilised egg cell.
The research group is primarily interested in morphogenesis, the processes that sculpt shape and structure in the embryo, with particular focus on the gene regulatory events that drive the processes. This research is important in helping to increase our understanding of how genes operate in the formation of a new individual, which in turn adds to our understanding of birth defects, cancer and regenerative biology. Our current projects investigate morphogenesis of the developing skeleton, the respiratory and digestive tracts and examines similarities and differences across systems.


knee joint morphogenesisThe detailed morphology of the chick knee joint emerges during early development of the skeletal rudiments, prior to stage HH34 and joint cavitation. Alcian blue staining and 3D OPT imaging of the embryonic chick hindlimb (Roddy et al. 2009 Journal of Anatomy 214, p374.


Many birth defects are caused by mutations in or altered regulation of genes such as those under investigation in this work; genes that guide events in the developing embryo.  As for the relevance to cancer, it has frequently been found that the genes and gene products important during development are precisely those that are disturbed when cell control is lost during cancer. For example, a key communication pathway between cells and a focus of research in the lab, Wnt signalling, is needed for correct differentiation of cells in the intestine and has been strongly implicated in colon cancer with more than 85% of cases showing mutations in one or more components of the pathway. In regenerative biology, a future long-term goal is the replacement of cell types or body parts that no longer function correctly. Collaborative work within the Trinity Centre for Bioengineering, aims to understand how genetic regulation is integrated with physical changes in the mechanical environment of cells and tissues to produce correct cell types and structures in the correct position, with a view to applying this knowledge to the effective control of stem cell differentiation

The laboratory follows a number of lines of research, described under specific projects.


3-D reconstruction of a theiler stage 19 mouse embryo in situ hybridized with a frizzled 8 probe

3-D computer reconstruction of a TS 19 mouse embryo in situ hybridized with a Frizzled 8 probe.One of the most prominant aspects of the research teams current work is integrating the study of individual genes and molecules with the intricate and detailed shape changes that take place in the embryo

The laboratory follows a number of lines of research, described in more detail on the projects page.

a) Regulation of skeletal development
b) Mouse models of human congenital malformations of the digestive and respiratory tracts
c) Integrating and relating multiple gene expression patterns to morphological changes in the developing embryo, including cross species comparisons

One common feature of research  across the 3 projects is integrating the study of specific genes and molecules with the intricate and detailed shape changes that take place in the embryo. This is made possible by the use of 3 dimensional imaging and analysis techniques developed by collaborators in Edinburgh (The Edinburgh Mouse Atlas Project), with whom the research team has close links.

lung morphogenesis

Morphogenesis of the developing mouse lung between embryonic day 10 and 12. tr, trachea; st, stomach; pa, pancreas; fg, foregut; lb, lung buds; TS Theiler stage of mouse embryo development