Dr. David Gokhman
In the animal kingdom, many human adaptations stand out. Our brain size has increased by 3-fold, we have transitioned to upright walking, and our learning period has become particularly long. These adaptations were pivotal to our success as a species, but they also brought with them new diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease, epithelial cancers, preterm labor and more. How did this process occur? How did we become human? and why did these extraordinary adaptations come with such a high price tag?
Gene regulatory changes (i.e., changes to the level, timing, and tissues in which a gene is expressed) are thought to be the main drivers of evolution. However, our understanding of how gene regulatory changes shape human evolution is limited. In our lab, we study how gene regulatory changes have differentiated us from our closest relatives: the extinct Neanderthals and Denisovans, and the extant great apes. We use and develop a wide range of tools and resources, both computational and experimental: from ancient Neanderthal and Denisovan DNA, through computational approaches for extraction of phenotypic information from genetic data, to generating human-ape hybrid cells.