Charleston, SC April 12, 2013 – College of Charleston Marine Biology Professor Andrew M. Shedlock is one of the lead researchers on a team that decoded the world’s first turtle genome, which could have applications for human medical conditions. The western painted turtle has the ability to withstand anoxia, or situations of extremely low oxygen, and extreme cold. By understanding the genome, or the entirety of an organism’s hereditary information, researchers may be able to offer insights into human care of the heart and brain in cases of hypoxia-induced injuries. Results are published in the journal Genome Biology 2013, 14:R28.
Shedlock explains, “This collaborative project on a common freshwater turtle links advanced genome research technology being developed for molecular medicine with the ability to understand, and eventually predict, the behavioral and physiological responses of threatened species such as sea turtles that may be associated with environmental stressors such as climate change, coastal development, marine pollution and commercial fishing.”
In addition to teaching marine biology and genomics in the College of Charleston biology department, Shedlock also holds a faculty appointment at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) College of Graduate Studies. Shedlock is the fourth author of a large team of international experts who worked on the project, and one of only five principal investigators who served as the organizing committee for the International Painted Turtle Genome Sequencing Project.
“The support at the College to combine both conventional and high-tech approaches to try and answer basic research questions in vertebrate biology and also help solve applied environmental problems provides a rich and diverse set of opportunities for engaging students and building new productive relationships. It’s a win-win-win academic situation with lots of exciting untapped potential and leads naturally to building innovative collaborations.”
Conclusions drawn from the research and cited in Genome Biology 2013, “ … indicate that common vertebrate regulatory networks, some of which have analogs in human diseases, are often involved in the western painted turtle’s extraordinary physiological capacities. As these regulatory pathways are analyzed at the functional level, the painted turtle may offer important insights into the management of a number of human health disorders.”
Additionally the research is significant for other turtle species insights. Shedlock is applying this research in his work at the College’s Grice Marine Laboratory. “I am now utilizing our initial genome map for the painted turtle, Chrysemys picta, to develop biomarkers that can help us protect and manage many related turtle species worldwide that are endangered and legally protected. Most notably we are using our new map to study gene expression in the S.C. State Reptile, the loggerhead sea turtle, Caretta caretta. I also lead a team who annotated the many diverse mobile DNA elements that impact the structure and function of eukaryotic genomes, which is one of the research areas that I have published on extensively in turtles and a diversity of other vertebrates.”
For more information on Shedlock’s work, contact him via e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org.