Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Calculating evolution

11.11.2014

For a long time, prognoses forecasting the evolutionary future of organisms were considered mere speculation. An international team of scientists have developed an algorithm that can predict the evolution of asexual organisms such as viruses or cancer cells.

The researchers tested the program for the first time on the historical development of the A/H3N2 influenza virus: the algorithm was able to determine the upcoming season’s virus type with good or very good accuracy in most cases.


A tree of samples of influenza (HA1) sequences from 5/2006 to end of 2/2007 (see colored sequences) and from 10/2007 to end of 3/2008 (in grey). The algorithm successfully predicts the next sequence.

Dr. Richard Neher / Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology

Combining this approach with other methods could further increase the accuracy of the prognoses. The method can even be applied to predict the development of HIV and noroviruses as well as cancer cells.

The algorithm developed by the international team is based on a simple idea: using the branches of a genealogical tree as reference, it infers an organism’s capability of surviving – i.e. its biological fitness. Fitter lineages have more offspring, which is why their genealogical tree comprises more branches. Highly branched branches therefore represent lineages that are expected to prevail in the future.

“Predicting evolution is the ultimate test for our understanding of evolution,” says Richard Neher from the Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology. Such predictions could also help scientists produce vaccines against rapidly developing pathogens such as influenza viruses.

The method is based on two key assumptions: the organism population is under persistent directional selection, and the fitness of individuals changes in small steps due to mutations. The input then needed by the algorithm is the genealogical tree derived from the genetic analysis of the organism’s various lineages.

Validation tests have already proven the reliability of this method. The researchers tested it on the development of the A/H3N2 influenza virus occurring in Asia and North America from 1995 to 2013. They used the genetic data of the surface receptor haemagglutinin 1 of one year to reconstruct a genealogical tree that the program then used to predict the upcoming flu season’s fittest virus lineages.

“In 30% of all cases, our algorithm was able to determine the virus type that would bring forth the dominant type the next year. For 16 of the 19 years analyzed in this time period, it made informative predictions regarding the virus type that would circulate in the upcoming season. This indicates that the fitness of the influenza virus is mainly determined by mutations that individually have a small effect but accumulate over time,” says Neher.

The researchers in Tübingen also compared the evolutionary trajectory of A/H3N2 with the predictions published by researchers from Cologne and New York in the spring of 2014. This algorithm uses long time series of genetic data of influenza viruses to predict which virus type will be dominant in the upcoming year, and is designed specifically for influenza. It turned out that the method from Tübingen makes predictions with a similar reliability, even though its underlying algorithm is much simpler and can be applied to many different organisms.

Combining this approach with models of the spread and transmission of pathogens could increase the algorithm’s power of prediction even further. “Our method works without historical data and does not require detailed knowledge of how an organism’s genome influences its fitness. This makes the method much more versatile, so that it can also be applied to other virus types as well as bacteria and cancer cells,” says Neher. In a next step, the scientists plan to apply it to HI- and noroviruses.

Original Publication:
Predicting evolution from the shape of genealogical trees
Richard A. Neher, Colin A. Russell, and Boris I. Shraiman
eLife, November 11, 2014. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7554/eLife.03568
eLife 2014;3:e03568

Nadja Winter | Max-Planck-Institut
Further information:
http://eb.mpg.de

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Making fuel out of thick air
08.12.2017 | DOE/Argonne National Laboratory

nachricht ‘Spying’ on the hidden geometry of complex networks through machine intelligence
08.12.2017 | Technische Universität Dresden

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Towards data storage at the single molecule level

The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.

Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...

Im Focus: Successful Mechanical Testing of Nanowires

With innovative experiments, researchers at the Helmholtz-Zentrums Geesthacht and the Technical University Hamburg unravel why tiny metallic structures are extremely strong

Light-weight and simultaneously strong – porous metallic nanomaterials promise interesting applications as, for instance, for future aeroplanes with enhanced...

Im Focus: Virtual Reality for Bacteria

An interdisciplinary group of researchers interfaced individual bacteria with a computer to build a hybrid bio-digital circuit - Study published in Nature Communications

Scientists at the Institute of Science and Technology Austria (IST Austria) have managed to control the behavior of individual bacteria by connecting them to a...

Im Focus: A space-time sensor for light-matter interactions

Physicists in the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics (run jointly by LMU Munich and the Max Planck Institute for Quantum Optics) have developed an attosecond electron microscope that allows them to visualize the dispersion of light in time and space, and observe the motions of electrons in atoms.

The most basic of all physical interactions in nature is that between light and matter. This interaction takes place in attosecond times (i.e. billionths of a...

Im Focus: A transistor of graphene nanoribbons

Transistors based on carbon nanostructures: what sounds like a futuristic dream could be reality in just a few years' time. An international research team working with Empa has now succeeded in producing nanotransistors from graphene ribbons that are only a few atoms wide, as reported in the current issue of the trade journal "Nature Communications."

Graphene ribbons that are only a few atoms wide, so-called graphene nanoribbons, have special electrical properties that make them promising candidates for the...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

AKL’18: The opportunities and challenges of digitalization in the laser industry

07.12.2017 | Event News

Blockchain is becoming more important in the energy market

05.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Making fuel out of thick air

08.12.2017 | Life Sciences

Rules for superconductivity mirrored in 'excitonic insulator'

08.12.2017 | Information Technology

Smartphone case offers blood glucose monitoring on the go

08.12.2017 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>