Originally from Germany, Sam Behjati read medicine at Oxford (2000-2006) and pursued post-graduate clinical training in London, UK. Funded by the Wellcome Trust he joined the Cancer Genome Project of the Sanger Institute (UK) for doctoral research. He was supervised by Mike Stratton and Peter Campbell. Thereafter Dr. Behjati returned to full time clinical work. Earlier this year, in March 2016, he started setting up my own research programme at Sanger funded by a Wellcome Trust Intermediate Clinical Fellowship and the St. Baldrick’s Foundation Arceci Innovation Award. Building on ideas developed during his PhD, he now aims to define the embryonic origin and fate of childhood cancer cells.
On the trails of the developing embryo
Humans develop from the fertilised egg in a beautifully orchestrated process of cell division and differentiation. The aim of Sam Behjati’s research was to look at those early cell divisions of the fertilised egg retrospectively, after an organism has formed. The basic principle was to use the mutational, developmental postcode that every cell of an organism carries. This postcode comprises mutations, (changes in the DNA code) that cells acquire as they divide. Using multiple cells from two mice he was able to demonstrate that it is feasible to reconstruct development from such mutational postcodes, which provided insights into the first cell divisions of the fertilized egg