Wnt signalling is an ancient pathway that accompanied the evolution of metazoans and plays major roles in developmental processes including the function of stem cells and tissue patterning.
Shukry pioneered the technology of immobilising Wnt proteins to synthetic surfaces. He has shown that localised Wnts can maintain a variety of stem cell types and control oriented asymmetric cell division. His lab studies how the stem cells interact with their niche to recruit localised Wnts and initiate tissue formation. Specifically, they investigate mechanisms of breaking cellular symmetry, cell sorting and self-organisation during embryogenesis and adult skeletal tissue formation. Using this knowledge, they engineered a 3D human osteogenic tissue model (WIOTM) that maintains human skeletal stem cells and a cascade of osteogenic differentiation. Recently, they engineered novel Wnt- and WIOTM- bandages that can promote repair in bone defects that cannot heal by themselves. Importantly, they also generated humanized bone in mice. These technologies can be adapted to other tissues for repair, high-throughput screening applications and disease modelling.