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Research Seminar (31 July 2012)



Research Seminar
Centre for Genomic Sciences
Genomics Strategic Research Theme

Genome Theory: From Stochastic Cancer Evolution
to New Evolutionary Theory


Dr Henry Heng

Associate Professor, Centre for Molecular Medicine & Genetics Pathology Department
Wayne State University School of Medicine

31 July 2012 (Tuesday)
10:00 – 11:00am

Room 7-03, 7/F

The Hong Kong Jockey Club Building for Interdisciplinary Research

5 Sassoon Road, Pokfulam, Hong Kong

Using single cell and multi-level genomic analyses his group has demonstrated that stochastic genome alterations rather than gene mutations are the driving force of cancer evolution. There are two phases of cancer evolution which repeat in multiple cycles. The punctuated phase display genome chaos where genome replacement dominates. The Darwinian stepwise phase display intermediates with clonal features. Punctuated cancer evolution has been recently confirmed using single cell sequencing.

The genome is not the sum of genes. The genome topology is the key to distinguish parts (genes) and the system (genome). Genome alterations drive macro-evolution while gene mutations impel micro-evolution. His group has applied this concept to organismal evolution, which solves the key evolutionary paradox that short term adaptation conflicts with long term stasis. This has led to the theory that the main function of sex is to reduce genetic diversity to preserve the genome defined species identity. By identifying this new type of inheritance, or “system inheritance” (defined by the topological relationship among genes within a nucleus, which is distinctively different from “parts inheritance” as defined by individual gene coding), he has recently introduced the genome based evolutionary theory. This theory has significant implications to the study of common human diseases.

About the Speaker:
Dr Heng received his PhD from the University of Toronto under Dr Lap-Chee Tsui. He is an Associate Professor at the Wayne State University School of Medicine (USA). His current research involves developing the genome theory of evolution. He discovered the two phases (punctuated and stepwise) of cancer evolution, and has established the evolutionary mechanism of cancer. He recently proposed that the main function of sex is to preserve the genome. He has authored over 160 publications and serves on the editorial boards of four international journals. His monograph “4D-Genomics: the genome dynamics and constraint” will be published by Springer this year.



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Refreshment to be served

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