CEM Seminar - Frederik Nijhout

Mechanistic models of metabolic diseases help explain why disease genes are maintained in populations

John Franklin Crowell Professor
Department of Biology, Duke University 
Mechanistic models of metabolic diseases help explain why disease genes are maintained in populations
 
Metabolic diseases are diverse and widespread, and the underlying mechanisms are often sufficiently well understood that it is possible to develop accurate mathematical descriptions of the causal pathway to disease. I will discuss how we construct such models, how we have used them to investigate homeostatic mechanisms, gene– environment interactions, and genotype–phenotype mapping, and how they can be used in precision and personalized medicine.  I will illustrate a new way of mapping naturally occurring polymorphisms in genes associated with disease and show how this mapping can be used to understand the weak and variable statistical association of genes with complex diseases. The evolution of mechanisms that stabilize phenotypes against genetic and/or environmental variation can sometimes be deduced and help explain variation in susceptibility to disease.     
 
Fred Nijhout is broadly interested in developmental physiology and in the interactions between development and evolution. He has several lines of research ongoing in his laboratory that on the surface may look independent from one another, but all share a conceptual interest in understanding how complex traits arise through, and are affected by, the interaction of genetic and environmental factors.