Genomes are always changing. Variations in the germ line get transmitted to future generations and are therefore not only important for the individual in which they arise but potentially significant for the entire species. They shape diversification and speciation as they are providing the raw material on which evolutionary forces can act a. On the other hand, changes in somatic cells can have severe consequences for the individual in which they arise, potentially causing degenerative disorders or cancer. All living organisms continually undergo the challenge of allowing just the correct amount of change. Too little changes and the entire species becomes vulnerable, as there is too little fodder for evolution and adaptation to unforeseeable future challenges, however too many changes and the health of a given individual is compromised.
This fascinating conundrum triggered my interest, to understand how genomic instability arises and is regulated. My current research focuses on how information is reshuffled from one generation to the next through meiotic recombination. I am deciphering exactly where, when, and which changes occur. I then take this information to predict their long-term consequences for the genome throughout future generations. I research at the individual level, too. By understanding how the process of recombination functions correctly in a healthy person, in contrast to cancer patients and cancer survivors that have undergone cancer therapy. Cancer cells show extreme genomic instability, and treatment often involves introducing additional DNA damage to cancer cells to destroy these. However, treatment can also influence previously healthy cells and the germ line and can trigger further germline instability in coming generations (transgenerational instability).
We are currently hiring graduate and undergraduate researchers and have positions for rotation and summer students.