Slide background

Slide background
Slide background
Slide background

Loading Events
Christopher A. Walsh, MD, PhD

4:00 PM — 6:00 PM

Harvard Medical School, Boston Children’s Hospital, Howard Hughes Medical Institute

See New York Genome Center’s lecture series, events and archives VIEW FULL CALENDAR


Christopher A. Walsh, MD, PhD
Bullard Professor of Pediatrics and Neurology
Harvard Medical School

Chief of the Division of Genetics and Genomics
Boston Children’s Hospital

Howard Hughes Medical Institute


4-5PM: Lecture & Audience Q&A
5-6PM: Networking & Cocktail Reception

Talk Title: “One Brain, Many Genomes: Somatic Mutation and Genomic Diversity in the Human Cerebral Cortex

The role of ‘somatic’ mutations—those arising during prenatal development–in human disease is not well understood, nor do we understand the potential role of genomic variation as a source of normal neuronal diversity.  Analysis of blood DNA with high coverage panel sequencing suggests that >25% of undiagnosed patients with brain malformations show causative mosaic mutations in known genes. Hemimegalencephaly (HME) and Focal Cortical Dysplasia (FCD) represent epileptic brain malformations caused by mosaic mutations resulting in mTOR pathway activation, but the mutation is typically present in only a minority of cells (1-30%) within the brain lesion and undetectable in blood DNA. These data show that mosaic mutations causing disease can occur either before, or after, separation of neural tissue from non-neural tissue.

Similarly, analysis of standard whole exome sequence of patients with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) with a new calling algorithm shows that 5-10% have mosaic mutations detectable in blood.  Analysis of postmortem ASD brains shows that about 10% of likely causative mutations are mosaic in brain, sometimes unevenly distributed between brain regions. Such somatic mutations have the potential to create a mosaic brain that could underlie other neuropsychiatric diseases, though this remains untested.

In parallel experiments analysis of single human neurons, using single cell whole genome amplification and sequencing, reveals that somatic LINE element insertions can be found in up to half of the neurons in normal cerebral cortex; large CNV are also frequent; and hundreds to thousands of SNV occur in each single cerebral cortical neuron. Clonal somatic SNV represent a permanent lineage map of the human brain of quite high density, revealing unique patterns of clonal structure in human brain.  On the other hand, nonclonal somatic mutations appear to be driven by transcriptional damage, and occur at even higher rates in rare genetic syndromes associated with precocious neuronal degeneration.

Supported by the NIMH, NINDS, and HHMI.

Dr. Christopher A. Walsh is Bullard Professor of Pediatrics and Neurology at Harvard Medical School, Chief of the Division of Genetics at Boston Children’s Hospital, and an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. He completed his MD and PhD degrees at the University of Chicago. After a neurology residency and chief residency at Massachusetts General Hospital, he completed a research fellowship in genetics at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Walsh has studied patterns of neural stem cell division, cell fate choices, and cell migrations in the developing cerebral cortex, and has pioneered the analysis of human genetic diseases that disrupt the cerebral cortex. Among his awards are a Jacob Javits Neuroscience Investigator Award from the NINDS, the Dreifuss-Penry Award from the American Academy of Neurology, the Derek Denny-Brown Award from the American Neurological Association, the Wilder Penfield Award of the Middle Eastern Medical Assembly, and the Research Award from the American Epilepsy Society.

To learn more about Dr. Christopher Walsh, visit Google Scholar – Christopher A. Walsh, MD, PhD

Q&A Moderator:

Nicolas Robine, PhD
Assistant Director, Computational Biology
New York Genome Center

    The New York Genome Center’s Evening Talks events feature distinguished experts from around the world sharing genomic insights and research. They are intended to showcase and explain high science to the non-scientific community. Speakers present the latest research findings and explain its implication for helping improve clinical care for a wide array of serious diseases. The lecture is followed by a lively question-and-answer session and a post-event reception of hors d’oeuvres and cocktails. These popular free public events are held in the Center’s state-of-the-art ground-floor auditorium starting at 6:30 pm. The Evening Talks Series is sponsored by The New York Community Trust – Pyewacket Fund.

  • Computational Cancer Genomics Working Group Evening Lectures
    Computational Cancer Genomics Working Group is led by Simon Tavaré, PhD, NYGC and Columbia University, and Sohrab Shah, PhD, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. This group will build collaborations that apply novel statistical approaches and population-level analyses to major cohorts in cancer genomics.