Bioinformatic approaches to cancer research

Genes – the functional units of DNA – are involved in all aspects of normal human development and human disease. Although most cells have a core set of active genes, selective activation of other genes is necessary to produce different types of specialized cells, such as muscle cells, nerve cells and skin cells. Malfunction in the normal pattern of gene activation is implicated in many diseases, including cancer. Dr. Jones uses sophisticated computational techniques to analyze the activation of genes involved in the formation and development of mammalian organs and tissues and to explore genes that are activated in specific cell types such as muscle and neural cells. His goal is to develop software that will allow researchers to predict the behaviour of genes by indicating when they are switched “on” or “off”. Besides improved understanding of normal growth and development, this research will help clarify the changes in activation patterns that give rise to cancer, potentially leading to new ways of detecting cancer risk and the earliest stages of cancer onset.