La Monarca Vol 4 FINAL - Page 16

Photo courtesy of Diego Ortega del Vecchyo
D i e g o O rt e g a D e l V e c c h y o
particular nucleotide substitution
is beneficial for the organism,
that organism will leave more
offspring, increasing the frequency
of that substituted nucleotide in the
population. Natural selection also
increases the frequency of the other
A’s, G’s, T’s and C’s located near the
selected beneficial substitution.
Imagine picking up a string of
Christmas lights by the center. If
selection is very strong (imagine
jerking the string up suddenly), the
nearby nucleotides will be pulled
up as well, forming a tent-shaped
distribution before the string has
had a chance to relax. However,
UC Los Angeles Alumnus
if selection is weak—for example,
Bioinformatics Graduate Program
picking the string up slowly—there
Advisors: John Novembre & Kirk Lohmueller
is enough time for the neighboring
Current position: Postdoctoral researcher, UC Berkeley,
Department of Integrative Biology
nucleotides to relax, and so the tentshape never forms, leaving a narrow
iego Ortega del Vecchyo available only in recent years. Diego is peak instead.
is a published expert on at the forefront of this technological
Diego’s approach is to identify the
dog breeds, but you won’t find his revolution and is actively inventing
articles in Dog Fancy and he’s never new methods for analyzing DNA steepness of these peaks and then
repeat this process across the entire
sat through an entire broadcast with the hope of answering questions
genome. He uses the differences in
of the Westminster Dog Show. not just about the evolution of dogs,
curvature to infer the distribution
As a researcher in bioinformatics, but humans and other animals too.
of the strength of selection acting
Diego’s passion for canines goes More precisely, he is inventing new
on all mutations in the genome.
further than pedigrees, into the computational algorithms that can
Additionally, his method includes
deep history of man’s best friend to search within the morass of the the possibility of the mutations
probe when, where and how they billions of rows of nucleotides (the being deleterious, where mutations
were domesticated from their wild A’s, G’s, T’s and C’s that comprise decrease the number of descendants
our DNA in our genome), looking left by an individual.
for patterns that indicate how we
Questions about the origin of evolved millions of years ago.
Although this may sound very
domestic dogs and their relationship
abstract, the applications for human
to wild wolves have puzzled
Specifically he is looking for health (and dog breeding as well) are
humans for centuries, although “signatures of natural selection.” almost limitless. According to Diego,
the technology to definitively Infrequent mutations can substitute “I originally became interested in
answer these questions has become an A for a T, or a G for a C. If a [genomics] because of the potential

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