Each of a complex brain's billions of cells has a single ancestor. This cell's many, varied ancestors divide, migrate and differentiate into their final forms because each of them contains a characteristic set of molecular machines - proteins - that determine cell behavior and identity. A cell's proteins are 'expressed' from a specific subset subset of the instructions (genes) in it's DNA, with genes first being 'transcribed' into an intermediate form - RNA - and then 'translated' into protein. My project quantifies these two processes over time in the developing mammalian cortex, with the aim of determining their influence on final protein levels, and hence the form and function of the brain.
Our data comprise millions of data points, simultaneously measuring gene expression over five timepoints at the level of RNA, DNA and protein. Unlike most data – our system is not in equilibrium, so that modelling it accurately requires nonlinear modelling of degredation kinetics. Thanks to the KT Boost Fund I have the time and autonomy to develop the unique computational tools required to do this, unlocking insights into the mechanisms of gene regulation that a surface level ‘out of the box’ analysis would miss.
... I would spend more time playing music and traveling. As an amateur guitarist I try to make up in enthusiasm what I lack in talent and practice time. I also love to travel, and experience other cultures. Having travelled in Asia and South America, Africa would be next on my list.
Name: Dr. Dermot Harnett
Research field: Computational Biology
Institution: Humboldt University of Berlin/ Berlin Institute for Molecular Systems Biology