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Darryl Shibata : Reconstructing Human Tumor Ancestries from their Genomes: Making Human Tissues Talk

It is well-known that genomes encode ancestry through replication errors - on average the greater the numbers of differences between two genomes, the greater the time since they shared a common ancestor ("molecular clock hypothesis"). This approach is commonly used to infer ancestries of species and populations, and these same tools can be applied to somatic cell evolution, in particular to better infer ancestries of normal and neoplastic tissues. For example, by sampling from opposite sides of the same human colorectal tumor, one can coalesce back to the earliest tumor cells. Such studies reveal that many human colorectal tumors are simple single "Big Bang" expansions, with evidence of neutral evolution during growth. It may be possible to understand in detail what is impossible to directly observe - the first few divisions of human tumors.

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