Charles Darwin laid out the blueprint of evolution when he showed how species adapt and change over time through natural selection. It’s what allowed us to trace our own evolution back and find the point where human lineage split from chimpanzees. So if we’re able to trace back the steps evolution has taken, are we also able to predict where it’s headed next?
Christian Landry researches the very foundations of evolution by examining the inner life of cells to learn whether the process follows a predetermined path. The Université Laval researcher mimics the circumstances of evolution, for instance by using two species of yeast to create a third hybrid species, then repeats the experiment over and over again to identify patterns in the process. His work helps us understand how microbes, plants and animals might adapt to environmental changes by modifying their cellular machinery in response to external forces such as drought, pollution and climate change.
Landry’s experiments have also shown that controlled evolution can be useful for developing personalized pharmaceuticals that tailor treatments and dosage to the individual. This could lessen the impact of side effects brought on by some treatments and reduce the ability of pathogens to develop into drug-resistant “superbugs.”