Ph.D. Biological Sciences (2013), Louisiana State University
B.S. Chemical Engineering 1975, University of Arkansas
The fundamentals of life are inexorably linked to DNA. The cures for cancer, hereditary disease, and tissue regeneration, as well as the details of our evolutionary history, will all ultimately yield to our understanding of genetics. Grasping the fundamentals of the architecture and function of the human genome is both the great privilege and the sober responsibility of our generation. Being part of this pursuit is one of the greatest privileges of my life.
My particular research pursuit is studying the stability of a human repetitive sequence known as the Alu element. The human genome contains over one million full-length Alu copies and fragments. Alu elements are randomly distributed in both forward and reverse orientations. However, Alu pairs having two Alus in the same (direct) orientation are statistically more prevalent than Alu pairs having two Alus in the opposite (inverted) orientation. This phenomenon is identified as Alu pair exclusions or APEs.
We have hypothesized that APEs are primarily the consequence of deletions generated by interactions between inverted Alu pairs. Using this hypothesis, we have constructed a model for comparing the stability of selected cancer genes versus random genes. It is our hope that this approach to assessing the relative stability of repetitive DNA landscapes will help to lay a foundation for understanding cancer risks among specific individuals, relatives and people groups.