Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Cancer and Vampires: An Evolutionary Approach

22.06.2015

New Internet tool combines genomics and informatics to enable investigators, physicians or patients to analyze genes according to their evolutionary profiles and find associated genes

Two major revolutions, one genomic and one in informatics, are completely changing the face of biomedical research. Every day all over the world, millions of genetic sequences — from disease-related genes to complete genomes of plants, animals, bacteria and viruses — are resolved, identified and dissected.


Dr. Yuval Tabach at the Hebrew University’s Institute for Medical Research Israel Canada has developed a new Internet tool that will allow any investigator, physician or patient to analyze a gene according to its evolutionary profile and find associated genes. (Photo credit: The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

One of the most fascinating applications of the available information stemming from different organisms is the possibility to identify novel disease-related genes and predict their biological functions. 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, and may therefore be identified by a comparison to the genes in normal animals.

Now, Dr. Yuval Tabach, a researcher from IMRIC — the Institute for Medical Research Israel Canada in the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Faculty of Medicine, has developed a new Internet tool that will allow any investigator, physician or patient to analyze a gene according to its evolutionary profile.

Dr. Tabach’s application is a product of his continuing research, which he began as a Fellow at Harvard University in collaboration with researchers and physicians from all over the world. This research revealed the possibility of comparing the evolutionary profiles derived from multiple organisms to predict the biological functions and clinical relevance of given genes. One of the most important applications of this approach is the possibility to identify genes associated with genetic diseases and cancer.

One example of a known mutation which increases the likelihood of developing breast and ovarian cancers is in the BRCA1 gene. Interest in this gene was highlighted when, in 2013, Angelina Jolie, having discovered that she had inherited the dangerous mutation from her mother who died of cancer aged 56, decided to undergo a preventative double mastectomy. However in the majority of cases, both for breast cancer and other genetically transmitted diseases, the identity of the gene responsible is unknown.

By using the methods of genetic analysis developed by Dr. Tabach, researchers can now identify genes within the same network as the BRCA1 gene, or other associations of genes, simply by scanning the evolutionary profiles of tens of organisms with a single click. The number of organisms that can be scanned in this way is anticipated to increase to hundreds in the near future.

“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” explains Dr. Tabach. “The process is rapid, without cost or time wasted, and enables the identification of genes responsible for diseases.”

An interesting example of a gene that could be identified using this phylogenetic profiling approach is the so-called “Vampire’s Disease,” more professionally termed porphyria. Representing a family of genetic diseases characterized by abdominal pain, sensitivity to sunlight, purple urine, and psychotic episodes, porphyria probably forms the basis for the prevalent myths of vampires.

These diseases are rare, but there is evidence for hereditary porphyria in European royal families, and it may have been responsible for the madness of King George III as well as for the psychotic behavior of the painter Vincent Van Gogh, misdiagnosed as a depressive schizophrenic. Dr. Tabach demonstrated how, with one click, it is possible to identify essentially all the genes known to be associated with porphyria as well as other genes that, based on their phylogenetic profile, are very likely to be involved.

The bioinformatics methods developed by Dr. Tabach have formed the basis for the establishment of a company dealing with computational pharmaceutics which will identify new indications for existing therapeutic agents. This could dramatically decrease the time and expense required to bring a new drug to market, and facilitate the development of treatments for rare orphan diseases.

In the coming years, Dr. Tabach’s laboratory intends to focus on the identification of genes that prevent aging and protect against cancer, by consideration of the genes of some fascinating species of organisms with increased longevity and an almost complete resistance to cancer. In addition the laboratory is working with a model which describes almost 40 neurological diseases with a related etiology including Huntington’s disease, ataxia, and fragile X syndrome.

The research paper, co-authored with collaborators from Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston, appears in the journal Nucleic Acids Research as “PhyloGene server for identification and visualization of coevolving proteins using normalized phylogenetic profiles” (doi: 10.1093/nar/gkv452).

Support for the research came from Hebrew University of Jerusalem start-up funds.

The Institute for Medical Research-Israel Canada (IMRIC), in the Hebrew University of Jerusalem's Faculty of Medicine, is one of the most innovative biomedical research organizations in Israel and worldwide. IMRIC brings together the most brilliant scientific minds to find solutions to the world's most serious medical problems, through a multidisciplinary approach to biomedical research. More information at http://imric.org 

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem is Israel’s leading academic and research institution, producing one-third of all civilian research in Israel. For more information, visit http://new.huji.ac.il/en 

To contact the researchers: Dr. Yuval Tabach, yuvaltab@ekmd.huji.ac.il.

For more information:

Dov Smith
Hebrew University of Jerusalem
+972-2-5882844 / +972-54-8820860
dovs@savion.huji.ac.il

Dov Smith | Hebrew University of Jerusalem

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Plant mothers talk to their embryos via the hormone auxin
17.07.2018 | Institute of Science and Technology Austria

nachricht Barium ruthenate: A high-yield, easy-to-handle perovskite catalyst for the oxidation of sulfides
16.07.2018 | Tokyo Institute of Technology

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: First evidence on the source of extragalactic particles

For the first time ever, scientists have determined the cosmic origin of highest-energy neutrinos. A research group led by IceCube scientist Elisa Resconi, spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Center SFB1258 at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), provides an important piece of evidence that the particles detected by the IceCube neutrino telescope at the South Pole originate from a galaxy four billion light-years away from Earth.

To rule out other origins with certainty, the team led by neutrino physicist Elisa Resconi from the Technical University of Munich and multi-wavelength...

Im Focus: Magnetic vortices: Two independent magnetic skyrmion phases discovered in a single material

For the first time a team of researchers have discovered two different phases of magnetic skyrmions in a single material. Physicists of the Technical Universities of Munich and Dresden and the University of Cologne can now better study and understand the properties of these magnetic structures, which are important for both basic research and applications.

Whirlpools are an everyday experience in a bath tub: When the water is drained a circular vortex is formed. Typically, such whirls are rather stable. Similar...

Im Focus: Breaking the bond: To take part or not?

Physicists working with Roland Wester at the University of Innsbruck have investigated if and how chemical reactions can be influenced by targeted vibrational excitation of the reactants. They were able to demonstrate that excitation with a laser beam does not affect the efficiency of a chemical exchange reaction and that the excited molecular group acts only as a spectator in the reaction.

A frequently used reaction in organic chemistry is nucleophilic substitution. It plays, for example, an important role in in the synthesis of new chemical...

Im Focus: New 2D Spectroscopy Methods

Optical spectroscopy allows investigating the energy structure and dynamic properties of complex quantum systems. Researchers from the University of Würzburg present two new approaches of coherent two-dimensional spectroscopy.

"Put an excitation into the system and observe how it evolves." According to physicist Professor Tobias Brixner, this is the credo of optical spectroscopy....

Im Focus: Chemical reactions in the light of ultrashort X-ray pulses from free-electron lasers

Ultra-short, high-intensity X-ray flashes open the door to the foundations of chemical reactions. Free-electron lasers generate these kinds of pulses, but there is a catch: the pulses vary in duration and energy. An international research team has now presented a solution: Using a ring of 16 detectors and a circularly polarized laser beam, they can determine both factors with attosecond accuracy.

Free-electron lasers (FELs) generate extremely short and intense X-ray flashes. Researchers can use these flashes to resolve structures with diameters on the...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Leading experts in Diabetes, Metabolism and Biomedical Engineering discuss Precision Medicine

13.07.2018 | Event News

Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP: Fine Tuning for Surfaces

12.07.2018 | Event News

11th European Wood-based Panel Symposium 2018: Meeting point for the wood-based materials industry

03.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Subaru Telescope helps pinpoint origin of ultra-high energy neutrino

16.07.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Barium ruthenate: A high-yield, easy-to-handle perovskite catalyst for the oxidation of sulfides

16.07.2018 | Life Sciences

New research calculates capacity of North American forests to sequester carbon

16.07.2018 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>