CEM Seminar - Gregory Wray

Adaptation and mismatch during the evolution of diet in hominims

Professor, Department of Biology 
Duke University
Evolution and mismatch during the evolution of diet in hominins
Environmental and cultural changes imposed major shifts in diet during human origins. The impact of these shifts is apparent in the anatomy, physiology, behavior, and disease susceptibilities of modern humans. The advent of genomic technologies is opening up new ways to identify the genetic basis for these important trait changes, while the development of adult stem cells provides an experimental platform to understand their phenotypic impact. I will present recent results from our work to understand evolutionary changes in lipid and carbohydrate metabolism during ancient and recent human evolution. We have identified several regulatory mutations that likely supported the dramatic expansion of the neocortex during the Paleolithic by providing the necessary energy and materials, but may contribute to disease burden in modern populations due to secondary shifts in diet. 

Dr. Gregory Wray is Professor of Biology at Duke University and Director of Duke’s Center for Genomic and Computational Biology. His research focuses on the phenotypic impact of mutations that influence gene regulation. He is particularly interested in the evolution of diet and cognition during human origins, which he studies using a combination of molecular, genetic, genomic, and computational approaches. Current work in his lab is aimed at identifying and validating regulatory mutations that altered neural development to produce the unique anatomical features of the human brain. A parallel project is investigating regulatory mutations that altered metabolic processes to support the much larger brain of humans. Other topics of interest include evolutionary medicine and the basis for robustness and evolvability of gene regulatory networks. Greg received his bachelor’s degree from the College of William and Mary and his doctorate from Duke University, after which he carried out post-doctoral research at Indiana University and the University of Washington.