Documenting the Coming Singularity

Thursday, January 29, 2009

It's the algorithm, stupid - New computational technique allows comparison of whole genomes as easily as whole books

Blogger's Note: Huge advances in technology are often the result of better computational methods rather than advances in hardware. As you will see here. - January 28 2009

Text comparison of English books with the FFP method yields a relationship tree that groups similar books together, by genre, period or author. Credit: Sung-Hou Kim laboratory, UC Berkeley

Taking a hint from the text comparison methods used to detect plagiarism in books, college papers and computer programs, University of California, Berkeley, researchers have developed an improved method for comparing whole genome sequences.

With nearly a thousand genomes partly or fully sequenced, scientists are jumping on comparative genomics as a way to construct evolutionary trees, trace disease susceptibility in populations, and even track down people's ancestry.

To date, the most common techniques have relied on comparing a limited number of highly conserved genes - no more than a couple dozen - in organisms that have all these genes in common.

The new method can be used to compare even distantly related organisms or organisms with genomes of vastly different sizes and diversity, and can compare the entire genome, not just a selected small fraction of the gene-containing portion known to code for proteins, which in the human genome is only 1 percent of the DNA.

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