Written by: C. Titus Brown
Primary Source: Living in an Ivory Basement
As part of a February visit to the Whitney Marine Lab in Florida, I’m giving a talk for the public. I chose “The Genomic Revolution: How Sequencing Anything and Everything Is Changing the Way We Do Science” as the title. Basically, I want to talk about what the DNA sequencing revolution has brought us, in slightly more concrete terms than I usually do. After giving them the title, I came up with a possible list of topics to explore more fully in the talk. The list, in no particular order, is:
Studying phylogeny. We’ve learned a lot about the phylogeny of animals (and probably plants) from DNA sequencing. This has some interesting implications for studying how evolution of development works, for example.
How body plans develop. From HOX on up, we’ve been able to look at conservation and divergence of genes and regulatory programs.
We can study the heredity of humans in ever greater detail as sequencing costs drop. From SNP studies to WGS, we can now track ancestry back thousands of years.
Rich Lenski’s Long Term Evolution Experiment has been greatly facilitated by DNA sequencing; Rich’s lab and his academic offspring and collaborators are now studying the molecular basis of E. coli evolution in great mechanistic detail.
Environmental surveys, both microbial and otherwise. DNA barcoding, RAD sequencing, and metagenome sequencing have all led to a greater understanding of ecological and biogeochemical complexity, as well as functional complexity in the environment.
Human disease, both genetic and otherwise.
Studies of the human microbiome. 10 years ago the human microbiome was largely unstudied; the availability of cheap sequencing has made it possible to ask many questions about species, genetic variation, and “good” health.
Hospital infections! There have been some excellent uses of sequencing for studying MRSA infections.
Epidemiology more broadly — patterns of transmission of influenza, plague, EHEC, and tuberculosis have all been studied at a molecular level with sequencing.
But… I’m worried that I’m missing stuff. I don’t usually give talks on this broad a range of topics, and while I try to read widely I also don’t hit everything, nor do I track interesting things that I’ve read in the past.
So, dear LazyWeb: what topics should I be covering? If you had to explain genomic sequencing to your parents or non-scientific siblings, what would you give as an example of the awesome utility? Please comment below, or send me an e-mail.
(Why should you help me? Dunno :). But I’ll do the usual — post slides under a liberal license, post a video if they do one, and try to summarize what’s been suggested. And I will, of course, credit anyone whose ideas I use.)
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