Graphic of DNA.
Ramya Purkanti, a 2016–2017 B4 Fellow at the Mittal Institute, worked in Professor Michael Desai’s lab during her time at Harvard, researching the experimental evolution of yeast populations as it adapts to nutritional stress. Recently, her research team published an article in eLife Journal on the work they’ve done in the lab.
“As human health is increasingly threatened by emerging pathogens, multidrug-resistant infections, and therapy-evading cancer cells, our understanding of the dynamics and predictability of evolution is of growing importance,” the team writes. “Yet, predicting the course of evolution is difficult, since it is driven by a complex combination of deterministic and stochastic forces.”
With the rise of more resistant pathogens, scientists have turned to laboratory evolution experiments to study microbial populations and learn how these pathogens evolve to become more resistant — and how to develop new defenses against them.
Through modeling systems, these researchers have the ability to “replicate populations for hundreds or thousands of generations, in a setting where the environment and other relevant parameters (e.g. population size) can be precisely controlled and manipulated,” writes the team. Through these studies in the laboratory, scientists can observe evolution in action and come up with new predictions and solutions.