Algorithm Reads DNA, Finds Clues to Disease

Democratic Republic of Science Reporting

When you mix computer learning with DNA sequences, it may sound like the next sci-fi flick from J.J. Abrams, but in fact, it’s how researchers have created a computer model that reads the human genome, simulates the cell’s processes, and then predicts if mutations will cause disease. The multi-disciplinary research team from the University of Toronto, Canada, and the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR) including Hui Xiong, Brendan Frey, and Stephen Scherer, worked together to write the computer algorithm that predicts how mutations can lead to incorrect gene splicing. Their work, published in the December 2014 edition of Science, is unique because the team probed areas of the genome that are hard to study.

“Brendan’s work is groundbreaking because it represents a first serious attempt to decode the portions of that 98 per cent of the human genome outside the genes that are typically studied in genetic disease…

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