Among the infectious diseases of poultry, neoplastic diseases (tumours) caused by cancer-inducing (oncogenic) viruses are hugely important, both in respect of animal welfare and economic losses.
The Viral Oncogenesis Group we are focussed on the interactions between these viruses and the their host, largely the chicken, in order to unravel the molecular mechanisms of tumour formation.
Currently our major focus of research is on Marek's disease (MD), a highly contagious neoplastic disease of poultry caused by Marek's disease virus (MDV). We are using a variety of analytical approaches to determine how it induces tumours. MD is controlled by vaccination. Unfortunately, every decade or so forms of MDV evolve with yet higher virulence. It is believed that vaccination drives this change; we are studying this phenomenon.
The Viral Oncogenesis Group also houses the Marek's Disease Reference Laboratory on behalf of the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE).
We have established reverse genetics approaches on full-length infectious bacterial artificial chromosome (BAC) genomes of MDV for the identification of MDV gene functions. In addition, we do in-depth analyses of the transcriptome, proteome, interactome and the microRNA expression profiles in MDV tumour cells to identify the molecular networks in neoplastic transformation, to aid in the development of novel intervention strategies against the disease..