A new method to mine existing scientific data may provide a wealth of information about the interactions among genes, the environment and biological processes, say researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine, Lucile Packard Childrens Hospital and Harvard Medical School. Like panning for gold, they used the powerful technique to sift through millions of bits of unrelated information - in this case, gene expression data from so-called microarray experiments - to pinpoint genes likely to be involved in leukemia, aging, injury and muscle development.
"This is just the tip of the iceberg," said bioinformatics specialist Atul Butte, MD, PhD, who is also a pediatrician at Lucile Packard Childrens Hospital at Stanford. "Nearly 100 different diseases have been studied using microarrays, spanning all of medicine. This is a new way to explore this type of data. We can study virtually everything thats been studied." Butte is the first author of the study, which is published in the Jan. 6 online issue of Nature Biotechnology.
The advance comes with a caveat, however: clinically useful nuggets will be buried under the avalanche of data inundating international repositories each year unless scientists come up with a way to better classify their experiments and results.
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