Department: Clinical Science and Services
Postdoctoral Research Scientist
I conduct bioinformatic analyses on genomic datasets to elucidate the genetic basis of disease for application in prediction and treatment.
Dr. Marsha Wallace obtained her PhD in Genetics from Cornell University. There, she was awarded a Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award for her work on genetic susceptibility and genomic drivers of breast cancer. She became a postdoctoral research scientist in the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research at the University of Oxford where her research focused on functional and inherited genomics for application in the prediction and treatment of human disease. She received the University of Oxford’s Outreach Award for her contribution to public engagement and scientific outreach activities. Her recent work in the Nuffield Department of Medicine centered on elucidating the origins and mechanisms of type 1 diabetes using single cell RNA sequencing. Now she works with the Royal Veterinary College and the University of Oxford as part of the Canine Diabetes Genetic Partnership.
In my current research, I explore the genomes of different dog breeds to determine what makes a particular breed more susceptible to a given disease. Historically, only a few dogs have gone into making each breed. While these founders were often selected and bred for their physical characteristics, such as black spots, or white coat color, rare detrimental genetic variations in those founders were inadvertently also passed on. For example, a handful of dog breeds are susceptible to developing diabetes, while the disease is rarely observed in other breeds.
By employing genomic technologies such as Whole Genome Sequencing (WGS), we can capture the range of genetic variants in each breed, and with single cell RNA sequencing, correlate the impact these variants have on gene expression in a given cell type. Then, by applying functional annotation and other filters, I can prioritize variants for validation that are most likely to contribute to disease susceptibility. This work will greatly impact our understanding of the etiologies of canine disease and offer new opportunities for prediction and treatment.
At The Royal Veterinary College we have established a national canine diabetes register. This includes a database of clinical information and an archive of residual samples. This diabetic register is used as part of ongoing research into the causes of this disease.