University of Texas at Austin

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Evolutionary research connections here and there

Edward Marcotte

Edward Marcotte

John Wallingford

John Wallingford

Research conducted by University of Texas at Austin professors Edward Marcotte and John Wallingford is featured in this week’s edition (April 27, 2010) of Science Times in the New York Times.

Marcotte, in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, and Wallingford, in the Section of Molecular Cell and Developmental Biology, found genes in the genomes of organisms as diverse as plants, worms and yeast that are responsible for causing human diseases such as cancer and deafness.

In yeast, for example, they found genes that humans use to make veins and arteries, even though yeasts have no blood vessels at all. Yeasts use those same genes to fix their cell walls in response to stress.

“Basically, we figured out a way to discover the genetic basis for disease by looking at organisms other than humans and finding disease equivalents,” Marcotte said.

The research was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Another researcher in the Times story is Sean B. Carroll, professor of Molecular Biology and Genetics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. As it happens, he will speak at the Hot Science-Cool Talks lecture at 7 p.m. Friday (April 30) at Welch Hall.

In a further connection, the writer of the Times story, Carl Zimmer, referred to a comment about the article made by Jerry Coyne, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Chicago.

On his blog, Why Evolution is True, Coyne said that the story and the research have pushed him to become more accepting of the idea that evolutionary biology research can have an impact on medicine.

The Marcotte-Wallingford research reinforces an exchange Coyne had with David Hillis, a professor in the Section of Integrative Biology at The University of Texas at Austin.

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