What can bat genomes teach us and why should we care?

Institute Seminar by Emma Teeling

  • Date: Nov 7, 2023
  • Time: 10:30 AM - 11:30 AM (Local Time Germany)
  • Speaker: Emma Teeling
  • Prof. Emma Teeling is a world-class leader in the cross-cutting fields of mammalian phylogenetics and comparative genomics, with particular-expertise, in bat biology. She established the Laboratory of Molecular Evolution and Mammalian Phylogenetics in 2005, is a Founding Director of the genome consortium Bat1K and the Full Professor of Zoology at University College Dublin, Ireland. She has pioneered and leads global research into the development of bats as new models for healthy ageing and disease tolerance. She has been awarded prestigious personal grants to pursue this research- European Research Council (ERC) Starting grant (2013-2018), a Science Foundation Ireland (SFI), President of Ireland Young Researcher Award (2006-2012), an Irish Research Council (IRC) Laureate Award (2018-2022), and an SFI Future Frontiers Award (2020-2025). She has published >121 peer reviewed research articles, 25 of which have been published in the highest interdisciplinary journals for her field (e.g. Nature, Science, Cell, PNAS), as they over-turned conventional paradigms in mammalian biology. Her research has been cited more than 15,351 times, with >28 publications cited >100 times (Goggle Scholar, September 2023). She has given prestigious international keynote lectures and public presentations (e.g. TED talk; >571,574 views; EU Parliament; World Economic Forum, Davos; BBC’s Science Club, NOVA documentary, Royal Institution Christmas Lectures), has been elected to prestigious academic boards and institutes (e.g. Irish Research Council Board, 2015-2021; Member of Royal Irish Academy, 2016) and was awarded Chevalier des Palmes Académiques, 2017 for her research.
  • Room: Seminar room MPI-AB Möggingen + Online
  • Host: Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior
  • Contact: ddechmann@ab.mpg.de
 What can bat genomes teach us and why should we care?
Of all mammals, bat possess the most unique and peculiar adaptations that render them as excellent models to investigate the mechanisms of extended longevity and potentially halted senescence. Indeed, they are the longest-lived mammals relative to their body size, with the oldest bat caught being >41 years old, living approx. 8 times longer than expected. Bats defy the ‘rate-of-living’ theories that propose a positive correlation between body size and longevity as they use twice the energy as other species of considerable size, but live far longer. The mechanisms that bats use to avoid the negative physiological effects of their heightened metabolism and deal with an increased production of deleterious Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) is not known, however it is suggested that they either prevent or repair ROS damage. Bats also appear to have resistance to many viral diseases such as rabies, SARS and Ebola-like viruses and are the suspected reservoir species for a huge diversity of newly discovered viruses, including Sars-CoV-2. This suggests that their innate immunity is different to other mammals, perhaps playing a role in their unexpected longevity. Here the potential genomic basis for their rare immunity and exceptional longevity is explored across multiple bat genomes and divergent ageing and immune related markers (e.g. microbiome, telomeres, mitochondria, cellular dynamics, cytokine response) studied in wild bat populations. The immediate benefits of sequencing reference quality genomes from bat species throughout the world is outlined, highlighting the potential for disease surveillance and pandemic preparedness. These findings provide a deeper understanding of the causal mechanisms of ageing and tolerant immunity, potentially uncovering the key molecular pathways that could be utilised to benefit society and new solutions to protect us from disease.

The MPI-AB Seminar Series is open to members of MPI and Uni Konstanz. The zoom link is published each week in the MPI-AB newsletter.

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