I. Genomes Tell Us About the Past
II. Genomes Tell Us About the Past cont’d
Part II: Genomes Tell Us About the Past cont’d
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By looking at the light from distant galaxies and having well-established calibration methods, astrophysics can make hypotheses about the history of our universe. Do we have similar "rulers" in biology that could allow us to reconstruct the remote past and the evolution of species on this planet? The answer is likely "yes" and the clues are undoubtedly contained in the many whole genome sequences that are now available for inspection. However, it is critical to evaluate the assumptions that one makes in analyzing such sequence data. The first part of the talk discusses how one might reconstruct an accurate phylogeny between species based upon examining neutral mutations (particularly the degenerate third base in the triplet codon of certain amino acids). Critical to the approach is the realization that different species (e.g. mice and men) are evolving at significantly different rates.
Sydney Brenner is currently a Distinguished Professor of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, USA. Dr. Brenner received degrees in Medicine and Science from the University of Witwatersrand, South Africa and a D. Phil. in Chemistry from Oxford University, England. Dr. Brenner was a member of the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, England from 1956 to 1986, serving as Director from 1977 to 1986. He was Director of the MRC Unit of Molecular Genetics from 1986 to 1992.
Dr. Brenner was a pioneer of molecular genetics, making key contributions in the identification of mRNA and the demonstration of a triplet code. In the 1960s, Brenner and his colleagues at the MRC pioneered the development of the nematode C. elegans as a model organism for understanding development and other complex biological processes. In the past decade, Dr. Brenner has been interested in understanding vertebrate genomes.
Dr. Brenner has received many awards and honors and is a member of several National Academies of Sciences. His honors include the Companion of Honour, two Albert Lasker awards, one for his work in molecular genetics in 1971 and the Award for Special Achievement in Medical Science in 2000, and the Kyoto Prize in 1990. Dr. Brenner (along with H. Robert Horvitz and John E. Sulston) was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2002 for pioneering discoveries using C. elegans to uncover genetic regulation of organ development and programmed cell death.
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