UAB creates the first Internet server to search for genetic diversity

Researchers from the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona have developed the first international server that allows the user to analyze genetic diversity on a large scale. The web service, published in the special edition of Nucleic Acids Research on bioinformatics, will facilitate research about the genetic basis of hereditary diseases. The server is called PDA (Pipeline Diversity Analysis) and for the first time biologists around the world can search for small variations in the genomes of different individuals and different species using the data stored in large public genome databases, such as Genbank.

These variations are the key to understanding the great diversity in living beings on earth, as well as the large diversity that exists in individuals from the same species. In the case of our own species, these differences determine whether a person has blue or brown eyes, fair or dark skin, or a higher or lower risk of getting a certain type of cancer. This is why genetic variability, as well as being a key element in evolutionary biology and in biology in general, provides very valuable information for studying illnesses with a genetic origin, and it has become one of the main scientific research areas in the genomic field.

The web service, published this July in the special edition of the journal Nucleic Acids Research, consists of a set of programs that automatically search for genetic sequences in large public DNA databases. The sequences are grouped and the genetic diversity is measured in different regions, searching for what scientists call nucleotide polymorphisms. These are small variations in the “letters” of the DNA molecule that hold the genetic information of different individuals of a species.

The creation of bioinformatic tools that can automate the process of searching for and analyzing data is now one of the priorities of biomedical research in order to deal with the avalanche of molecular data that is generated world-wide. The server PDA is available for use for the scientific community at the Internet address http://pda.uab.es

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