Algal Genetic Research Coming to Abu DhabiAlgal Genetic Research Coming to Abu Dhabi
August 15, 2011
rin Conroy at TradeArabia News Service reports that a team of scientists, including a researcher at NYU Abu Dhabi, has developed what they say is the first genome-scale system of mapping the Clamydomonas reinhardtii algal species, enabling them to simulate deletions and substitutions of genes.
“It allows us to basically carry out experiments on a computer that are otherwise certainly not things you could easily guess or completely carry out experimentally,” says Dr. Kourosh Salehi-Ashtiani, who is conducting molecular biology research at NYU Abu Dhabi and for the Centre for Genomics and Systems Biology at the university’s New York campus.
He collaborated on the project with researchers from Harvard University, the University of Virginia, the University of California, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the University of Iceland. The results were published this month in the journal Nature.
Their computer model allows researchers to factor in the use of light energy when looking at growth characteristics to determine how a combination of genes would trigger different reactions to varying light sources or amounts. “How the species behaves in terms of light is of the most importance in terms of looking at its use in bioenergy, because you are relying on the light to generate biomass,” says Dr. Salehi-Ashtiani.
“In just five years there have been huge opportunities opening up in terms of sequencing because of the price drop and faster results, and that has opened doors for research,” he says, noting that with breakthroughs in genetics technologies a human genome can be now be processed in about 10 days for about $10,000, a small fraction of what it took just a few years ago.
Dr. Salehi-Ashtiani plans to expand the sequencing to other algae from labs to be built in Abu Dhabi. Working with researchers, he would study strains of the genus in 20 or 30 locations around the world to understand how the genome varies in different environments. By recognizing differences in the sequences, he could use the computer model to better understand natural mutations in the genomes.
The next step, he says, would be to study marine algae that are native to the UAE or would survive in the Gulf’s climate, which would presumably make the most of the intense sunlight.