The ABBL (Avian Biology and Bioinformatics Lab) is currently focused on elucidating the role of biological dark matter “dark genome” in health and disease. Dark genome is in refence to genomic regions with unknown functions. These regions do not code for proteins, but much of them are transcribed to non-coding RNAs with unknown functions. Mounting evidence from genome-wide association studies (GWAS) suggests the involvement of the dark genome in phenotypic variation, as majority of GWAS-detected variants (hits) fall in these regions.
To enable decoding the dark genome, and more broadly genetic mechanisms responsible for biological variation, our research group utilizes an array of cutting-edge technologies, such as spatial transcriptomics, RNA and DNA sequencing, metabolomics and electron microscopy, coupled with Big Data Analysis techniques. As such, the use of intermediate molecular phenotypes such as metabolites and RNA as well as advanced computational methods are of critical importance in our research.
Our lab alumni have been extremely successful in securing important positions in leading academic institutions, hospitals, and major biotechnology or pharmaceutical companies. Our multi-disciplinary research approach provides unique training opportunities for students and scholars who are interested in tackling the grand challenge of connecting genes to trait (disease) expression. Our lab offers trainings and projects in both bioinformatics and wet lab molecular biology experiments, allowing students to be involved in the entire process of a cutting-edge research in genetics and genomics. A typical student project starts with a live animal experiment and tissue sampling, leading to wet lab molecular biology experiments to generate high-quality omics data, which is then completed with bioinformatics analysis and biological interpretation of the results. In addition to helping students to develop critical thinking and problem solving skills, they are encouraged to be creative in data visualization and presentation of complex concepts. In their third and fourth years, students are provided with numerous opportunities to be a mentor and trainer for budding scientists. Students are also provided with opportunities to attend major conferences in genetics, genomics and bioinformatics.
Inquiries about research opportunities for students and scholars should be sent to Dr. Behnam Abasht, Professor of Animal Genetics (abasht@UDel.edu).