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 How brains surrender to sleep
23.06.2017 | IMP - Forschungsinstitut für Molekulare Pathologie GmbH

nachricht A new technique isolates neuronal activity during memory consolidation
22.06.2017 | Spanish National Research Council (CSIC)

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Quantum thermometer or optical refrigerator?

23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

A 100-year-old physics problem has been solved at EPFL

23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Equipping form with function

23.06.2017 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>