Understanding the blueprint of life

Understanding the blueprint of life
2019-10-04

The Centre for Genome Enabled Biology and Medicine (CGEBM) is the University of Aberdeen’s Genomics Centre. Genomics is the study of the full complement of an organism’s DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid), which contains our unique genetic code. Therefore, here in the CGEBM, we study the blueprint of life in a whole variety of different organisms that are important to humans and the ecosystems in which we live. Genomics (in contrast to genetics which focusses on genes and heredity) involves the study of all genes, their interaction, regulation and impact on cellular function. Genomics is revolutionising modern biological research in diverse fields from improving the health of farmed Salmon (worth £2b a year to Scotland’s economy) to improved production of biofuels from food waste and understanding how human activities impact the environment in which we live. Genomics is central to understanding what drives and maintains human health, providing new insight into the cellular processes and even the bacteria that we need to keep us healthy. Precision medicine is being accelerated by the advent of genomics: This aims to revolutionise healthcare for improved patient outcomes by moving away from a reactive, symptoms based and one-size-fits all approach for the clinical management of a specific disease or condition, to a tailored approach based on the characteristics of the patient or the affected tissues. These are some of the exciting areas of research in which CGEBM is involved as part of multidisciplinary teams of biologists, bioinformaticians, statisticians, engineers and computer scientists. We work with researchers at the University of Aberdeen and other Universities or Institutes, as well as with SMEs and commercial partners.

The rapid development of modern genomics technologies is slashing the cost of genomic level assays and is revolutionising the study and hence understanding of complex biological systems. CGEBM are equipped with highly specialised technologies in our laboratories. Our sequencing instruments include an illumina NextSeq500 and MiSeq, and Oxford Nanopore technology for long read sequencing. Our dedicated single cell genomics lab includes a 10X genomics Chromium system for processing up to 10 000 single cells in a single assay to measure gene expression, gene activity (chromatin accessibility) or structural variants on a genome wide scale: Fundamental aspects of gene variation and function that are associated with health, disease and important traits. Single cell resolution provides a new level of understanding of complex tissues and systems with heterogeneous cell populations, such as tumours, the immune system, stem cell niches and microbial communities.

Our highly expert team includes Genomics Specialists in our state-of-the-art laboratories and our Bioinformaticians who use specialised software or bespoke approaches to analyse the complex, high density datasets that we generate and work with. The HPCC at the University of Aberdeen provides the compute power required to analyse and mine these complex datasets for biological meaning.

We provide many educational opportunities. CGEBM bioinformaticians deliver a portfolio of Bioinformatics training workshops from November to May each year for any staff, post-graduate research students or individuals external to the University who are interested in developing these skills. We provide training and support in genomics and bioinformatics to doctoral students working with us and PGT students during their research projects. For students undertaking a taught Masters programme and interested in developing these skills, we teach Advanced Bioinformatics and Genome Sequencing (MB5522) from January each academic year. Students learn about how a bacterial genome can be sequenced and assemble a genome from short sequencing reads, annotate genes and explore important functions such as anti-microbial drug resistance. The CGEBM team are all fascinated by DNA and its impact on an organism’s function and enjoy discussing our work at events such as MayFest and Doors Open Day. Most recently we had a highly interactive, educational session at HMP Grampian, where the learners had interests ranging from evolution to genetic engineering, topics we love to discuss and debate.

Please contact us at cgebm@abdn.ac.uk if you would like to discuss your project, access our services or have an idea you would like to explore with us.

Dr Elaina Collie-Duguid, CGEBM Manager

Website: The Centre for Genome Enabled Biology and Medicine

Twitter: @cgebm_aberdeen

 

Published by The School of Medicine, Medical Sciences and Nutrition, University of Aberdeen

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