What genes make a dog big or small? Which ones are responsible for pointy or floppy ears? These questions from the field of comparative genomics are the topic of this year’s Bertalanffy Lecture on 14 October 2021. The Centre for Organismal Studies (COS) of Heidelberg University is holding an online lecture at 14:00 especially for high school students. A second lecture for researchers will follow later that day. In both lectures, American geneticist Dr Elaine Ostrander from the National Human Genome Research Institute in the USA will explain how genes determine the size and appearance of dogs and how those insights can also help humans. The Bertalanffy Lecture is funded by the Klaus Tschira Foundation.
Elaine Ostrander studies the genomes of domestic dogs. Although all dogs are related to one another, they are very different in appearance. After all, breeders selected pedigree dogs over centuries for special characteristics. Today, scientists can assign many of these characteristics, such as size, to the activity of specific genes. This knowledge about gene function can also be applied to humans. Among other things, Dr Ostrander is investigating which genes are associated with the susceptibility for cancer.
The Bertalanffy Lecture at the Centre for Organismal Studies is especially oriented to high school students who are interested in the natural sciences. After the lecture, they can speak directly with Dr Ostrander as well as the COS researchers. Anyone of any age is also welcome to join in. Registration for the online lecture is required and free of charge. The lecture series commemorates Ludwig von Bertalanffy, a renowned biologist and systems theorist of the twentieth century.