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Researchers study genetic mutations by keeping individual DNA secure

22 August 2017 2

People are generally sceptical in sharing their genetic information due to fear that it may be misused. Gill Bejerano, associate professor of developmental biology, of pediatrics and of computer science stated:

"Often people who have diseases, or those who know that a particular genetic disease runs in their family, are the most reluctant to share their genomic information because they know it could potentially be used against them in some way. They are missing out on helping themselves and others by allowing researchers and clinicians to learn from their DNA sequences."

However, researchers at Stanford University have figured out a way to address such security concerns. A team at Stanford has now developed a technique that can keep the vast majority of genomic data under wraps and at the same time it allows scientists to access key disease-associated mutations.

Previously, researchers had to compare whole genomes of thousands of people to figure out which genetic mutations cause disease and which are associated with healthy individuals. But with this new research there is no need of analyzing the whole genome and all of the irrelevant genetic data can be kept private.

The team demonstrated the process by executing several practical demonstrations. They identified specific gene mutations in patients with rare diseases and also compared a baby's DNA with his parents to target the likely cause of a genetic disease. In all these instances, at least 97 percent of the DNA information was completely hidden from the researchers.

Gill Bejerano, further stated:

"There is a general conception that we can only find meaningful differences by surveying the entire genome. But these meaningful differences make up only a very tiny proportion of our DNA. There are now amazing tools in computer science and cryptography that allow researchers to pinpoint only these differences while keeping the remainder of the genome completely private."

The technique thus helps in protecting a person's privacy and could further be applied to more commercial contexts, such as ancestry genome studies or even the rising field of nutrigenomics.

The team's research was published in the journal Science.



Researchers study genetic mutations by keeping an individual's DNA secure
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I agree with the facts mentioned in the quotes that it is very natural for someone not to share their genetic disease for obvious reasons. But the help for medication gets postponed.


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