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When I started at Uppsala University, I did so planning to do a degree in psychology. After I was a few courses in, I was introduced to the field of neurology. This involved studying how neural processes were happening in the central nervous system. Most people in my class absolutely hated this course, they felt it was way to much focus on the biological part of psychology. Myself, I loved it. This was the point when I realised what I wanted to study, biology. How all the different organisms, big and small, are able to keep doing what we all take for granted, stay alive. During my undergrad I ventured away from neurology, and found a new favourite topics, microorganisms. Right when I started I knew that I wanted to study the molecular side of biology, and prokaryotes were to me a system that you could really go into depth of what is going on. Jacques Monods words “What is true for E. coli is true for the elephant”, even though I might not quite agree with it today, were a big inspiration during my undergrad.
When it was time for my to do my masters thesis I came into contact with Thijs Ettema. This was the first time I was introduced to the world of bioinformatics, and after some months filled with swearing over the Linux terminal, I loved it. Studying a genome at its pure form, the A, T, C and Gs, are like peeking at the blueprint of an organism. To realise that we today are able to infer function from the hard-coded DNA of an organism is nothing short of amazing. Being a vivid sci-fi reader, I surely hope that one day we will be able to get an even more complete understanding of genomes, and even modify them to do new things.
In the world of prokaryotes my favourite has long been the archaea. These, seldom talked about, third domain of life, organisms are quite remarkable in many ways. They might not be the most interesting organisms from a medical point of view, leading to the lack of research into the archaea, but I feel this somehow just adds to the mystery of the enigmatic archaea. They were once believed to be a very specialised form of organisms, inhabiting the extreme environments, such as near-boiling hot-springs, but today we know that we can find them in any niche we investigate. My own research revolves around archaea doing something we have not observed them doing before, living as a symbiont inside another living cell. By sequencing the genome of organisms that are able to do remarkable features, previously never seen before, we hope to be able to answer the question of ‘How?’. What is that makes these particular organisms do what no other of their kind, that we know about, do? This system is an excellent experimental system in several aspects. A part from being biologically very interesting, it also provides some additional challenges. The traditional method of sequencing organisms have been to culture them in great numbers, and then extract a, relatively, large quantity of DNA. The problem with endosymbiotic organisms, is that they cannot be cultured. To cirumvent this issue I am working with DNA isolated from a single cell. That is a single chromosome as starting material. With the methods available today, known under the term ‘single cell genomics‘, we are able to do this, and to even sequence this single DNA molecule.
Brett J. Baker, Jimmy H. Saw, Anders E. Lind, Cassandre Sara Lazar, Kai-Uwe Hinrichs, Andreas P. Teske & Thijs J. G. Ettema. 2016. Genomic inference of the metabolism of cosmopolitan subsurface Archaea, Hadesarchaea
Anja Spang, Jimmy H. Saw, Steffen L. Jørgensen, Katarzyna Zaremba-Niedzwiedzka, Joran Martijn, Anders E. Lind, Roel van Eijk, Christa Schleper, Lionel Guy & Thijs J. G. Ettema. 2015. Complex archaea that bridge the gap between prokaryotes and eukaryotes
Daniela I Schneider, Lisa Klasson, Anders E Lind and Wolfgang J Miller. 2014. More than fishing in the dark: PCR of a dispersed sequence produces simple but ultrasensitive Wolbachia detection
Anja Spang, Joran Martijn, Jimmy H Saw, Anders E Lind, Lionel Guy and Thijs JG Ettema. 2013. Close encounters of the Third Domain: the emerging genomic view of archaeal diversity and evolution
Rolf Bernander, Anders E Lind and Thijs JG Ettema. 2011. Archaeal origin of the actin cytoskeleton: implications for eukaryogenesis