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Nicholas Luscombe : Bioinformatics and Computational Biology Laboratory

We are analysing large sets of complex biological data to understand how cells work.

Every aspect of life – from growth and reproduction to energy generation – is governed by complex, interconnected biological systems of genes inside cells that work together to keep them healthy and functioning correctly. Faults in any part of a system can lead to problem such as developmental defects or diseases like cancer.

We want to understand how genes within a particular system are switched on at the right time and in the right place. To do this, we are focusing on special molecules called transcription factors, which bind to DNA and help to switch genes on or off. We are seeing how changes in transcription factors alter patterns of gene activity inside bacteria, yeast and animal cells.

Advances in technology mean that we can now look at changing patterns of activity for many genes at once, using specialised software to see how a whole system is working. Our work is revealing the fundamental genetic networks that underpin life, helping us to understand more about how such complex systems evolved, how cells work, and what happens when they go wrong.