Posted on in Molecular Biosciences

Creating a Social Network for Genes

Computer scientist Inderjit Dhillon and biochemist Edward Marcotte are combining forces to create the first "social network" for genes, with a focus on finding genes associated with human diseases.  

Monica Kortscha tells the story in depth over at the website of the Institute for Computational Engineering and Sciences (ICES).

The network is built on a collection of hundreds of thousands of known human gene-to-gene interactions, integrated with thousands of gene-phenotype associations that Marcotte compiled from humans and an array of other organisms, including zebra fish, fruit flies, bacteria, yeast, and even plants.

Although the network is designed to look for human disease genes, including genes from non-human organisms in the network is a smart move because of the shared genetic history between all life. Identifying shared clusters of genes in different species and their phenotypes can help locate potential disease genes in humans, even if those genes have a seemingly unrelated effect in other organisms.

Research that Marcotte published in 2010 made this point clear, finding, among other connections, that the same cluster of genes that influence cell wall repair in yeast aids in blood vessel growth in humans. 

We've covered Marcotte's research, and his collaborations, quite a bit over the years. So has The New York Times.

Dan was publications editor for the College of Natural Sciences from 2006-2013. He is now communications manager for the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health.

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