In today’s episode we discuss how the study of animal genes may shed light on human disorders of aging such as stroke, heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease. We know that our circadian wake and sleep rhythms are controlled by a biological master clock deep in the hypothalamus of the brain. And that the change in melatonin levels, dropping with daylight and rising at night, mediates the master clock, and other on-off switches of biological clocks throughout the body. So waxing and waning of light creates our daily wake/sleep cycles. But animals that hibernate, such as bears, bats and groundhog, spend months in a cold dark cave or burrow. So what triggers a hibernating animal like the groundhog to wake up and emerge from its burrow? Contemplating the differences between the daily external triggers of the human master clocks and the signals for the hibernating animal master clocks, there are lessons to learn from comparing clock genes in humans and hibernating mammals. Understanding how animal genomics can shed light on human disease underpins the research of today’s guest, Dr. Katharine Grabek, co-Founder and Chief Scientific Officer of FaunaBio.
Katharine earned her PhD in Human Medical Genetics at the University of Colorado, Anschutz Medical Campus. She next trained as a postdoctoral scholar in computational biology in Dr. Carlos Bustamante’s lab at Stanford. Her research has focused on utilizing proteomic, transcriptomic and genomic approaches to identify the molecular components underlying the highly dynamic phenotype of hibernation. With her two colleagues, Katharine founded FaunaBio, where they study whether solutions to our worst diseases could be hidden in the animal kingdom?
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