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Introducing the Largest Autism Genome Database

Jun 10, 2014 12:10 PM EDT
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DNA, Genetics
Autism Speaks announced a collaboration with data supergiant Google Cloud Platforms to make the world's largest database of genomic sequence information on individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), creating an invaluable autism research tool that can be used anywhere in the world.
(Photo : Pixabay)

Autism Speaks announced a collaboration with data supergiant Google Cloud Platforms to make the world's largest database of genomic sequence information on individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), creating an invaluable autism research tool that can be used anywhere in the world.

Book Wright, the co-founder of Autism Speaks, announced Tuesday that the organization would be collaborating with Google to launch the Autism Speaks Ten Thousand Genomes Program (AUT10K) - a project that intends to make the world's largest private collection of DNA samples open to the public.

"This announcement represents an unprecedented intersection of business, science and philanthropy that will drastically accelerate the pace of autism research," Wright said in a statement.

According to Wright, the AUT10K will bring the Autism Genetic Resource Exchange (AGRE) - which contains detailed genetic phenotying of about 12,000 autism cases - to the Google Cloud Platform. This will provide open access to a massive archive of data to any researchers investigating ASD.

"Modern biology has become a data-limited science. Modern computing can remove those limits," said David Glazer, engineering director for Google Genomics.

And he's right. In recent years, the scientific community has moved away from the microscope to look deeper into the genetic causes of many common illnesses. The diagnoses of viral infections and even cancer screenings are becoming more accurate thanks to genetic profiling, but this also puts a strain on how much genetic data can be analyzed at one time. Research for genetically specific conditions such as ASD have to wait in line like everyone else.

Having this data at their fingertips, to be pulled from an open-source "cloud," could help expedite ASD research everywhere.

"We are excited ... about the opportunity for Google Cloud Platform to help unlock causes and treatments of autism," Glazer added.

Still, it is important to note that the AUT10K database will be far from complete even once it goes viral. Currently, the project has only sequenced 1,000 samples from the AGRE, with a long way to go before over 10,000 separate genomes are identified and archived.

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