Exploring the genetic origins of human biological uniqueness
What makes us human? Our capacities for invention, language and abstract thought set us apart from all other living things. With the sequencing of the human genome and the genomes of our closest primate relatives, locating the origins of such uniquely human characteristics has become a tractable genetic problem.
Many human traits are based on anatomical changes, including increased brain size and changes in the morphology of the limbs, that evolved due to genetic changes in development. Our laboratory uses a combination of computational and in vivo experimental approaches to study human-specific changes in developmental gene regulation. We are pursuing an integrated strategy that synthesizes maps of human-specific accelerated evolution in noncoding DNAs, in vivo analysis of cis-regulatory elements, and functional genomic atlases of human development to reveal the genetic basis of unique human biology.