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Researchers create map of 'shortcuts' between all human genes

Some diseases are caused by single gene mutations. Current techniques for identifying the disease-causing gene in a patient produce hundreds of potential gene candidates, making it difficult for scientists to pinpoint the single causative gene. Now, a team of researchers led by Rockefeller University scientists have created a map of gene "shortcuts" to simplify the hunt for disease-causing genes.

The investigation, spearheaded by Yuval Itan, a postdoctoral fellow in the St. Giles Laboratory of Human Genetics of Infectious Diseases, has led to the creation of what he calls the human gene connectome, the full set of distances, routes (the genes on the way), and degrees of separation, between any two human genes. Itan, a computational biologist, says the computer program he developed to generate the connectome uses the same principles that GPS navigation devices use to plan a trip between two locations. The research is reported in the online early edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"High throughput genome sequencing technologies generate a plethora of data, which can take months to search through," says Itan. "We believe the human gene connectome will provide a shortcut in the search for disease-causing mutations in monogenic diseases."

Itan and his colleagues, including researchers from the Necker Hospital for Sick Children, the Pasteur Institute in Paris, and Ben-Gurion University in Israel, designed applications for the use of the human gene connectome. They began with a gene called TLR3, which is important for resistance to herpes simplex encephalitis, a life-threatening infection from the herpes virus that can cause significant brain damage in genetically susceptible children. Researchers in the St. Giles lab, headed by Jean-Laurent Casanova, previously showed that children with HSE have mutations in TLR3 or in genes that are closely functionally related to TLR3. In other words, these gen

Contact: Joseph Bonner
Rockefeller University

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