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MOBILE GENOMES & DISEASE

'We investigate the impact of mobile DNA on disease, and the genetic mechanisms that make cancers transmissible'

‘The overall aim of our research is to identify and characterize new patterns and mechanisms of genomic structural alteration in disease, and the genetic causes of cancer transmissibility between individuals’


Research lines


Patterns and mechanisms of structural variation in cancer development and disease

Using computational approaches, we aim to identify and characterize new patterns and mechanisms of structural variation in the cancer genome and, generally, in disease. For this purpose we take part of several genome-analysis consortia, such as the International Cancer Genome Consortium (ICGC).

Roles of retrotransposons and viruses in cancer and disease

We investigate the impact of retrotransposons and viruses on the structure and the function of eukaryotic genomes, and the role this mobile DNA play in disease, particularly in cancer.

- Cancer virome

New genetic determinants of cancer under the sea

We explore the genetic alterations involved in the origin and development of marine cancers, looking for novel cancer genes, novel mutational mechanisms, and novel pathways that may cause cancer. This will provide new biological insights into the origins of cancer, and will also illuminate our knowledge on somatic evolution in the marine environment. Within the framework of this line of research, we are running the ‘4-Bivalves Genomes Project’, where we use PacBio, Illumina and Oxford Nanopore technologies to generate high-quality reference genomes from four relevant bivalve species to explore the genetic causes of their cancers. These high-quality genomes will also open doors for scientists from other research areas to explore the genetics of these species.

Genetic causes of transmissible cancers

Clonally transmissible cancers are somatic cell lineages that are transmitted between individuals via the transfer of living cancer cells. There are only three known types of naturally occurring clonally transmissible cancers, one of which is a leukemia-like cancer found in marine bivalves, called hemic neoplasia (HN). Using HN in bivalves as a model for clonally transmissible cancers, we intend to identify the genomic alterations and mutational processes that drive transmissible cancers to depart from their hosts and evolve as parasitic clonal lineages in the marine environment, for illuminating universal processes that make a cancer contagious, and to identify new/unexpected biological insights into the general mechanisms of cancer metastasis.