[The Svedberg seminar] – The Impossibility of Whales: somatic evolution across the tree of life
January 29, 2024 @ 15:15 – 16:15 CET
University of Cambridge, UK
Alex Cagan is an Assistant Professor at the Departments of Genetics, Pathology and Veterinary Medicine at the University of Cambridge and affiliate of the Programme for Cancer, Ageing and Somatic Mutation at the Wellcome Sanger Institute. He obtained his PhD in comparative genomics with Svante Pääbo at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology before doing a post-doc with Inigo Martincorena at the Wellcome Sanger Institute to develop methods to study somatic evolution. His work focuses on the development and application of methods to study somatic evolutionary processes across species to gain insights into cancer, ageing and environmental monitoring. Alex is also enthusiastic about science illustration and communication.
The Impossibility of Whales: somatic evolution across the tree of life
Somatic mutations accumulate in cells throughout life. They underpin the development of cancer and may contribute to ageing. Studying these mutations in healthy tissues has been challenging due to the difficulty of detecting mutations present in single cells or small clones in a tissue. Recent technical advances are enabling their study, revealing how cells accumulate mutations at different rates and how clonal expansions of mutant cells colonise tissues. Yet little is known about how these processes operate in non-human species. We performed whole-genome sequencing of 208 intestinal crypts from 56 individuals to study the landscape of somatic mutation across 16 mammalian species. This comparative analysis of somatic mutagenesis shed light on the diversity of mutagenic processes across species, and on long-standing questions regarding the evolution of somatic mutation rates and their role in cancer and ageing. We are now developing methods to enable the study of somatic evolution across any cell type in any species. These approaches aim to provide insights into the evolutionary origin of somatic mutational processes and the mechanisms that underlie cancer resistance in species where cancer is rare.
Host: Matthew Webster email@example.com, UU