In the Nature Genetics study, Drs. Schadt and Hao, Associate Professor of Genetics at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, together with Sangsoon Woo, PhD, from the Department of Biostatistics at the University of Washington, analyzed RNA and DNA from 378 livers donated by European-Americans for transplant, as well as liver and adipose tissues from 580 people from the same population group undergoing gastric bypass surgery. The authors found that levels of RNA across many genes correlate with age, sex, body weight, and other risk factors for diseases like diabetes and heart disease, but then they also correlate in many cases with changes in DNA that are unique to a given individual.
The investigators used an algorithm that matches patterns of gene expression to variations at 1,000 single-DNA-base sites in the genome. It is an application of integrative biology that examines multiple dimensions of data (DNA and RNA) to better inform a given dimension (RNA).
"The relationship of DNA to RNA is like that of an orchestra and the symphony it plays," said Schadt describing the new technique. "The DNA (orchestra) remains the same, while the RNA pattern (quality of the music) changes in response to outside factors. The new technique is like hearing a symphony and deducing which instruments are in the orchestra, essentially unwinding the developmental process to trace tissue samples back to RNA and the gene that instructed it."
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