The Hebrew University and the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston have collaborated in the creation of an algorithm that could scan as many as millions of genetic sequences from a variety of organisms, searching for links that can potentially signify diseases. This process could allow doctors, researchers, and patients to analyze a gene’s evolutionary profile and would “change the face of biomedical research by creating the ability to identify unique disease-related genes and predict their biological functions,” said the Israeli-American research team, headed by Dr. Yuval Tabach, a molecular biologist and researcher from Hebrew University’s Institute for Medical Research Israel-Canada (IMRIC), the Jerusalem Post reported. Additionally, the development “opens the door to drug repositioning, which holds the promise of new treatments for genetic diseases or cancer,” the researchers said.
Dr. Tabach, whose research paper on the subject has been published in the Nucleic Acids Research journal, said that the technique “is simple and based on the fact that genes that work together or those that play an important role in biology will be present together in organisms that need them. Conversely, genes connected to a particular function like vision will disappear from species that have lost the power of sight (like cave fish or moles), and may therefore be identified by a comparison to the genes in normal animals.”
“The significance of this tool is that anyone, physician or researcher, can input results from genetic mapping studies concerning suspected genes, and the tool will identify evolutionary, and probably functional, connections to known genes with association to diseases,” Dr. Tabach said. “The process is rapid, without cost or time wasted, and enables the identification of genes responsible even for rare genetic diseases.”
Dr. Tabach's lab at IMRIC works to "identify the genetic elements that make species resistant to extreme environments, cancer and aging." For more information on his research, click here.