3/27/18 Show feat. Rebecca Elyanow on Gene Assembly and Tracking Cancer Mutations

Featured image: Genetic variants of breast cancer cells, with different proteins highlighted by fluorescence. Many types of cancer cells coexist within a tumor, mutating more as time goes on. (Courtesy Marc van de Wetering et al., Cancer Research 2001)

Our guest this week was Rebecca Elyanow, PhD candidate at Brown University and Visiting Student Research Scholar in Princeton’s Department of Computer Science, who covered her fascinating work on understanding cancer mutations. All human cells copy DNA when they split, and many of these replications cause mutations in our genes. While these errors are normally corrected, some of them persist and develop into invasive cancers. Tracking these mutations and finding which ones are most harmful is a daunting task—which is why computer scientists like Rebecca write algorithms to sequence the tangled DNA of cancer cells. Hear how gene assembly works in practice (the shotgun method) and how computer science can help us unveil a mutation’s family tree. Plus, we end with a primer on machine learning and possible uses in keeping the government honest.

Listen to the whole recording for a sample of WPRB’s one and only All Vinyl Week, plus news about:

The playlist can be found online at WPRB.com or below.

Screenshot from 2018-04-02 20-22-17

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