Canada Research Chair in Environmental Health and Genomics
University of Ottawa
Natural Sciences and Engineering
613-562-5800 ext./poste 6328
Coming to Canada from
University of Miami, USA
Using "DNA-chip" technology to study environmental health.
The research is leading to a better understanding of how organisms react to environmental stress at a genetic level.
Chips Off the Old Block: Using DNA-Chips to Study the Affect of Environmental Stress on Genes
Functional genomics, and in particular DNA micro-arrays (or "DNA-chips"), now offers amazing opportunities to help us understand how organisms respond to environmental stress. Thousands of genes exist on a single DNA-chip, thus allowing scientists, like Canada Research Chair Dr. Patrick Walsh, to study a "forest" of genes at once, instead of individual genes one by one. They get to see how a great number of genes behave in concert when an organism is exposed to a chemical pollutant or other stress. This, in turn, allows the scientists to explore the impacts of the environment on the organism at the level of DNA and regulation of gene expression.
Walsh uses DNA-chips to study a whole range of physiological, biochemical, and molecular mechanisms that determine how organisms respond to environmental change. By using pre-existing DNA-chips for mammalian species, and by developing new DNA chips for different aquatic species, he is able to study how different species are affected by environmental stress (man-made pollutants, for example, or natural stress such as that from harmful algal blooms). He also tests beneficial natural products on experimental mammalian and fish models. And because there is commonality in genes and disease mechanisms between species, Walsh uses fish models to study human diseases of the liver and the brain. The research possibilities of this technology are almost endless.