SWITCH Conference, Coimbra: Science [en]

Running notes from the SWITCH conference in Coimbra. Are not perfect. Feel free to add info in the comments, or corrections.

José Pereira-Leal

Human genome: internal representation of our building blocks (assembly plan). Reading that “book” is an operation that has been going on for more than 10 years, and is an ongoing battle between public and private initiatives. Thousands of people involved, billions of dollars. Halfway through the process, somebody decided it was going nowhere, and went “private” => do this and make money in the process.

Public: taxpayer money goes into research, research is public, made available, and not owned by a corporation.

Genome: 3G letters (A, C, T, G)– 1 human cell = 1.8m of DNA in a space < 0.00001m. Very compact! Today, we know that less than 5% (probably less than 2%) actually means anything. Each cell reads a different part of the instructions.

Bioinformatics is at the crossroads of biology, computer science, maths, physics… Breakthroughs in computer science (e.g.) can dramatically speed up the process of deciphering the genome steph-note: I think that’s what he said.

Malaria: mass murderer => in the cell of the plasmodium, there are the remnants or an engulfed algae, and bioinformatics predict it should be possible to kill the parasite by using stuff that kills the algae, without harming the host.

For a proposal like that (fosmidomycin) to go into clinical trials, it would take 10 years. With bioinformatics, 2 years steph-note: if I understood correctly.

What else? Breast cancer. We need markers for disease prognosis and response to chemotherapy, and we need to know how well they predict. Approach: take an oncologist and a computer scientist, and data integration tools (bioinformatics) + data. steph-note: something about HLA-G.

Other thing: bacteria who live in human cells. Bioinformatics discovered that these bacteria lack copy redundancy (no spare tires) and we can predict which drugs will kill them.

From academia to commercialisation: need a business-friendly environment.

Archon Genomics Prize.

Monica Bettencourt Dias

PhD on cell biology of heart regeneration.

Cell proliferation. Mutant drosophiles (fruit fly).

Seeing is believing: with a microscope you look at fixed cells, but now it’s possible to actually see live cells. steph-note: photo of jellyfish, reminds me of my trip to the Oceanarium on Monday 😉

Cell cycle. If you lose part of the genome in the process, you can lose very precious proteins. Two important moments for us: chromosome duplication, and mitosis (where it can go wrong from the DNA point of view).

steph-note: Monica is showing us some video sequences of cells dividing, etc. — pretty cool! Nuclei tugging away from each other to separate the chromosomes. tug-a-war!

Centrosome helps distribute the genetic material equally between the two cells.

Interesting questions: How are the centrioles formed, and what is the role of the different structures in development and disease?

SAK/PLK4 is a centrosomal protein needed for centriole duplication in flies and humans. Does SAK-dependant centrosome duplication rely on a template? What happens if there is too much SAK? steph-note: oops, the science has lost me — very interesting but I must have skipped a bit here and there

Of course, all this has a link with figuring out cancer cells…

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