Department of Biology Outreaching to the Community
June 15, 2023
June 15, 2023
The Knights Templar Eye Foundation is dedicated to funding research into the prevention and treatment of sight threatening diseases in children. Each year, the foundation invites proposals for funding of research related to pediatric ocular disorders. Dr. Sumanth Manohar, a postdoctoral research scholar working in the lab of Dr. Ann Morris in UK’s Department of Biology, was one of 25 scientists selected to receive this funding in 2023-2024.
Click here for more information about Dr. Sarah Tishkoff.
Africa is thought to be the ancestral homeland of all modern human populations. It is also a region of tremendous cultural, linguistic, climatic, and genetic diversity. Despite the important role that African populations have played in human history, they remain one of the most underrepresented groups in human genomics studies. A comprehensive knowledge of patterns of variation in African genomes is critical for a deeper understanding of human genomic diversity, the identification of functionally important genetic variation, the genetic basis of adaptation to diverse environments and diets, and for reconstructing modern human origins. African populations practice diverse subsistence patterns (hunter-gatherers, pastoralists, agriculturalists, and agro-pastoralists) and live in diverse environments with differing pathogen exposure (tropical forest, savannah, coastal, desert, low altitude, and high altitude) and, therefore, are likely to have experienced local adaptation. In this talk I will discuss results of analyses of genome-scale genetic variation in geographically, linguistically, and ethnically diverse African populations in order to reconstruct human evolutionary history in Africa, African and African American ancestry, as well as the genetic basis of adaption to diverse environments.
PhD from Université Paris 6 (France)
Group Leader at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (2006-2015) (Heidelberg, Germany)
Head of Research Unit at the Institut Pasteur (2015-2019) (Paris, France)
Professor, The University of Chicago (2019-.)
The mechanisms that regulate the efficiency and specificity of interactions between distant genes and cis-regulatory elements such as enhancers play a central role in shaping the specific regulatory programs that control cell fate and identity. In particular, the (epi)genetic elements that organize the 3D folding of the genome in specific loops and domains have emerged as key determinants of this process. I will discuss our current views on how 3D genome architecture is organized, how it influences gene regulatory interactions and illustrate how alterations of the mechanisms and elements that organize genomes in 3D could contribute to genomic disorders and genome evolution.
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Kentucky is a botanically diverse state home to over 2,000 native plants and more than 400 taxa that are of conservation concern. Kentucky’s native plants are phylogenetically diverse, and a subset of taxa reflect Kentucky’s geologic history as tropical relicts. This is especially true for the ferns in Kentucky, as many species occupy sandstone rock shelters which buffer extreme climatic conditions much like cave ecosystems. These microclimatic pockets create unique distribution patterns for the ferns that occupy this niche space, and even further partition the fern life cycle such that some crevices host only gametophytes while others host both gametophyte and sporophyte generations. This talk will focus on decades of work conducted in these unique rock shelter environments and the spatial differentiation of fern generations (gametophyte/sporophyte) in Kentucky, the Appalachians and beyond. Ecological research focusing on topics such as local adaptation, physiological tolerance limits, and population differentiation will be discussed. The remainder of the talk will highlight the botanical resources housed at Eastern Kentucky University and the utility of these natural history collections to scientists worldwide.
The cerebral cortex is arguably the brain area that underwent the most profound transformations in vertebrate brain evolution. The expansion of the cerebral cortex in mammals was accompanied by an explosion of neuronal diversity. To discover general principles underlying the evolution of neuron types and circuits, we study the simple cerebral cortices of non-mammalian vertebrates. Our recent work has focused on the Spanish newt Pleurodeles waltl, a species with a key phylogenetic position in the vertebrate tree. We are investigating the neuroanatomy, cell type composition, and function of the Pleurodeles brain using a combination of modern neuroscience tools.
Our work on amphibians and reptiles indicates that the cerebral cortex of ancestral tetrapods was layered, with two main classes of neurons with distinct laminar positions, molecular identities, and long-range projections. In salamanders, these two layers are generated sequentially from multipotent progenitors in an outside-in sequence. We propose that in mammals new types of pyramidal neurons evolved from these two ancestral classes by diversification, through the emergence of novel gene regulatory interactions during neuronal differentiation.
Dr. Samantha Brugmann is a developmental biologist studying craniofacial development and disease. Her longterm goal is to help children with craniofacial anomalies by generating tissue amenable for surgical repair. To achieve this goal, her lab specifically focuses on the role the primary cilium during craniofacial development and the craniofacial anomalies that arise when the cilium do not function properly. Projects in her lab utilize avian, murine and humaninduced pluripotent stem cells to gain a better understanding of the molecular mechanisms associated with craniofacial anomalies. In addition to using existing animal models to understand human craniofacial disorders, her lab also sequences patients and generates cell-based models to uncover novel genetic causes for craniofacial ciliopathies.
The Brugmann Lab focuses on the understanding molecular and cellular processes important for craniofacial development and the onset of craniofacial anomalies (CFAs). CFAs represent approximately one third of all birth-defects. For the past decade, my research program has centered on treating these conditions by garnering a fundamental understanding of craniofacial development and pathological mechanisms associated with CFAs. We have specifically focused on a class of CFAs called ciliopathies, which are caused by disruptions to a cellular organelle called the primary cilium. Ciliopathies represent a fast-growing group of disorders, that can affect up to 1 in 800 people. My lab was the first to report that the craniofacial complex is the primary organ system affected in 30% of all ciliopathies, and thus coined the term craniofacial ciliopathies. My lab uses murine, avian and human model systems to understand molecular mechanisms associated with ciliopathies. Furthermore, we use these model systems to identify potential therapeutic avenues to treat this class of diseases.