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March 12, 2013

Department of Life Sciences Seminars



The genomes of four tapeworm species reveal adaptations to parasitism


Magdalena Zarowiecki

Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute


Wednesday 13 of March 11:00
Sir Neil Chalmers seminar room, Darwin Centre LG16 (below Attenborough studio)

Tapeworms cause debilitating neglected diseases that can be deadly and often require surgery due to ineffective drugs. Here I will present the first analysis of tapeworm genome sequences using the human-infective species Echinococcus multilocularis, E. granulosus, Taenia solium and the laboratory model Hymenolepis microstoma. The 114-120 megabase genomes offer insights into the evolution of parasitism. Synteny is maintained with distantly related blood flukes but we find extreme losses of genes and pathways ubiquitous in other animals, including 34 homeobox families and several determinants of stem cell fate. Also evident, tapeworms have species-specific expansions of non-canonical heat shock proteins and families of known antigens; specialised detoxification pathways, and metabolism finely tuned to rely on nutrients scavenged from their hosts. We identify new potential drug targets, including those on which existing pharmaceuticals may act.





Isomorphology and the Natural History Museum


Gemma Anderson

Artist/PhD Researcher, Falmouth University, Cornwall/ University of the Arts, London


Friday 15 of March 11:00
Sir Neil Chalmers seminar room, Darwin Centre LG16 (below Attenborough studio)

Isomorphology (a term which I have coined. Etymology, from Greek: Isos (‘Same/Equal’), Morphe (‘Form’), Logos (‘Study’)) is the comparative, drawing-based method of enquiry into the shared forms and symmetries of animal, mineral and vegetable morphologies. I will discuss how research and practice with the Natural History Museum collections has developed the concept of Isomorphology. The drawing process itself is intrinsic to the epistemological value of Isomorphology and can be understood through the following principles: Observation, Trained Judgment and Abstraction. Goethe’s (1749-1832) concepts of ‘Delicate Empiricism’ and of the ‘Ur-Phenomena’ are of particular relevance to the development of the concept of Isomorphology.

Incorporating both artistic and scientific methods, Isomorphology reaches beyond conventional scientific understanding, operating to liberate form from the confines of traditional scientific classification, and to abstract form and to relativize that abstraction. In developing the skill of abstract thinking it is possible to observe afresh, to form an individual understanding and to discover previously unperceived relations between objects. Isomorphology encourages both non-linear learning and ‘unlearning’, de-constructing inherited taxonomies in order to create new knowledge and new approaches. I will discuss how a series of Isomorphology workshops have developed a playful educational model of Isomorphology as a creative, drawing-based approach to encountering and learning about the natural world.

Through Isomorphology, I am arguing for qualitative dimensions to be recognized in scientific study, and for a creative practice which understands the natural world directly and intuitively, thereby strengthening our connection to nature. I am especially interested in feedback generated from this seminar and welcome your questions for further discussion.




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