What do we work on?...
- Molecular and Cell Biology
- Microbial Genetics
- Plant Genetics
- Neurogenetics and Development
- Molecular Evolution and Bioinformatics
- Medical Genetics
- Population Genetics
Genetics can be used to dissect cellular processes and pathways such as those controlling cell division or cell death. With the sequencing of the human genome and those of several experimental model organisms, these experiments can now be performed at the level of entire genomes (Prof. Seamus Martin).
Genetic and genomic approaches can be used to address all aspects of bacterial biology, including, for example: Host-pathogen interactions; Which genes in an organism are essential for its survival; How gene expression is regulated in response to environmental stress (Prof. Kevin Devine).
Life on earth is powered by sunlight. Plants, through photosynthesis, capture this energy and generate high-energy compounds on which all animal life depends. Understanding the molecular pathways that drive the growth and development of plants is therefore crucially important for mankind’s future. This knowledge can be used to develop crops with increased yields and improved resistance to drought, pests and diseases. Plants can also be manipulated to produce antibodies, vaccines and other therapeutic agents -- an application called BioPharming (Prof. Tony Kavanagh, Dr. Frank Wellmer).
The development of multicellular organisms depends on differential patterns of gene expression in different cells and regions of the embryo. Genetic screens in mice and flies have identified many genes involved in specifying the wiring pattern of the brain. Variations in this genetic programme may contribute to differences in individual behaviour and in humans to susceptibility to psychiatric disorders. Dynamic patterns of gene expression also underlie function in the mature nervous system such as the encoding of long-term memories (Dr. Juan Pablo Labrador, Dr. Kevin Mitchell, Prof. Mani Ramaswami).
Bioinformatics involves the use and development of computer methods to analyse the vast quantities of DNA sequence and gene expression data now available. Almost all areas of genetics research now involve bioinformatics, either as a way to explore ideas for further lab research, or to handle the results of large-scale experiments. Molecular evolution is the study of how genes have evolved and why genomes are organized the way they are (Dr. Mario Fares, Dr. Aoife McLysaght).
Genetic disorders of one kind or another affect 1 person in 25. Cancer is also caused by sporadic or inherited mutations in DNA. Disease-causing mutations can be identified through molecular mapping in human pedigrees. Animal models of various disorders can then be generated, for example, using transgenic mice. These models can be used to test gene therapy or stem cell replacement therapies (Dr. Adrian Bracken, Dr. Matthew Campbell, Prof. Jane Farrar, Prof. Peter Humphries).
The history of populations is written in their genes. Patterns of genetic variation in populations can be used to infer historical events, such as migrations of animals or peoples or domestication events. Variation patterns can also reveal the effects of selective forces, such as disease and lead to the identification of genes involved in disease resistance (Prof. Dan Bradley).
Click here for a list of recent publications from Smurfit Institute of Genetics, TCD. This link searches PubMed for papers that give the Smurfit Institute as the primary address of the authors.