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May - Temple Smith

Speaker: Temple Smith

Talk Title: “How far back can biology’s Big Data take us? Can we model biology’s beginnings?”

Event Details


Tuesday, May 5 2015. 1:00pm

Affiliation: Professor Emeritus, Biomedical Engineering, Boston University

URL: Temple Smith


Modern Biology now claims to be a “big data” science. Unfortunately, these days, the term Big Data has a lot of associated hype. The confluence of expanding genomic, structural and image data that support these claims for modern biosciences.

Phylogeny of major animal taxonomic divisions has been successfully reconstructed. For example, a recent publication on phylogeny of the entire class Aves or Birds (Dec 12th Science) displays a true tour de force of bioinformatics. This success has rested on two things: (1) availability of tens of thousands of full genomic DNA sequences and (2) intra- and inter-species conservation of DNA sequences.

In this talk, I will review the history of a programed cell death regulation system, the Lifeguard gene family, yielding information as far back as the divergence of plants and animals, and allowing the identification of a unique mutation shared by modern human and Neanderthals, but no other mammals. However most of the earliest events are still left to the theory and the hypothesis. I will further highlight that in the case of the DNA to protein translational system, current data is very suggestive of some early events – particularly the likely evolution of the aminoacyl tRNA synthase.