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Archive for the ‘Computational Biology/Systems and Bioinformatics’ Category


Can Blockchain Technology and Artificial Intelligence Cure What Ails Biomedical Research and Healthcare

Curator: Stephen J. Williams, Ph.D.

 

In the efforts to reduce healthcare costs, provide increased accessibility of service for patients, and drive biomedical innovations, many healthcare and biotechnology professionals have looked to advances in digital technology to determine the utility of IT to drive and extract greater value from healthcare industry.  Two areas of recent interest have focused how best to use blockchain and artificial intelligence technologies to drive greater efficiencies in our healthcare and biotechnology industries.

More importantly, with the substantial increase in ‘omic data generated both in research as well as in the clinical setting, it has become imperative to develop ways to securely store and disseminate the massive amounts of ‘omic data to various relevant parties (researchers or clinicians), in an efficient manner yet to protect personal privacy and adhere to international regulations.  This is where blockchain technologies may play an important role.

A recent Oncotarget paper by Mamoshina et al. (1) discussed the possibility that next-generation artificial intelligence and blockchain technologies could synergize to accelerate biomedical research and enable patients new tools to control and profit from their personal healthcare data, and assist patients with their healthcare monitoring needs. According to the abstract:

The authors introduce new concepts to appraise and evaluate personal records, including the combination-, time- and relationship value of the data.  They also present a roadmap for a blockchain-enabled decentralized personal health data ecosystem to enable novel approaches for drug discovery, biomarker development, and preventative healthcare.  In this system, blockchain and deep learning technologies would provide the secure and transparent distribution of personal data in a healthcare marketplace, and would also be useful to resolve challenges faced by the regulators and return control over personal data including medical records to the individual.

The review discusses:

  1. Recent achievements in next-generation artificial intelligence
  2. Basic concepts of highly distributed storage systems (HDSS) as a preferred method for medical data storage
  3. Open source blockchain Exonium and its application for healthcare marketplace
  4. A blockchain-based platform allowing patients to have control of their data and manage access
  5. How advances in deep learning can improve data quality, especially in an era of big data

Advances in Artificial Intelligence

  • Integrative analysis of the vast amount of health-associated data from a multitude of large scale global projects has proven to be highly problematic (REF 27), as high quality biomedical data is highly complex and of a heterogeneous nature, which necessitates special preprocessing and analysis.
  • Increased computing processing power and algorithm advances have led to significant advances in machine learning, especially machine learning involving Deep Neural Networks (DNNs), which are able to capture high-level dependencies in healthcare data. Some examples of the uses of DNNs are:
  1. Prediction of drug properties(2, 3) and toxicities(4)
  2. Biomarker development (5)
  3. Cancer diagnosis (6)
  4. First FDA approved system based on deep learning Arterys Cardio DL
  • Other promising systems of deep learning include:
    • Generative Adversarial Networks (https://arxiv.org/abs/1406.2661): requires good datasets for extensive training but has been used to determine tumor growth inhibition capabilities of various molecules (7)
    • Recurrent neural Networks (RNN): Originally made for sequence analysis, RNN has proved useful in analyzing text and time-series data, and thus would be very useful for electronic record analysis. Has also been useful in predicting blood glucose levels of Type I diabetic patients using data obtained from continuous glucose monitoring devices (8)
    • Transfer Learning: focused on translating information learned on one domain or larger dataset to another, smaller domain. Meant to reduce the dependence on large training datasets that RNN, GAN, and DNN require.  Biomedical imaging datasets are an example of use of transfer learning.
    • One and Zero-Shot Learning: retains ability to work with restricted datasets like transfer learning. One shot learning aimed to recognize new data points based on a few examples from the training set while zero-shot learning aims to recognize new object without seeing the examples of those instances within the training set.

Highly Distributed Storage Systems (HDSS)

The explosion in data generation has necessitated the development of better systems for data storage and handling. HDSS systems need to be reliable, accessible, scalable, and affordable.  This involves storing data in different nodes and the data stored in these nodes are replicated which makes access rapid. However data consistency and affordability are big challenges.

Blockchain is a distributed database used to maintain a growing list of records, in which records are divided into blocks, locked together by a crytosecurity algorithm(s) to maintain consistency of data.  Each record in the block contains a timestamp and a link to the previous block in the chain.  Blockchain is a distributed ledger of blocks meaning it is owned and shared and accessible to everyone.  This allows a verifiable, secure, and consistent history of a record of events.

Data Privacy and Regulatory Issues

The establishment of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) in 1996 has provided much needed regulatory guidance and framework for clinicians and all concerned parties within the healthcare and health data chain.  The HIPAA act has already provided much needed guidance for the latest technologies impacting healthcare, most notably the use of social media and mobile communications (discussed in this article  Can Mobile Health Apps Improve Oral-Chemotherapy Adherence? The Benefit of Gamification.).  The advent of blockchain technology in healthcare offers its own unique challenges however HIPAA offers a basis for developing a regulatory framework in this regard.  The special standards regarding electronic data transfer are explained in HIPAA’s Privacy Rule, which regulates how certain entities (covered entities) use and disclose individual identifiable health information (Protected Health Information PHI), and protects the transfer of such information over any medium or electronic data format. However, some of the benefits of blockchain which may revolutionize the healthcare system may be in direct contradiction with HIPAA rules as outlined below:

Issues of Privacy Specific In Use of Blockchain to Distribute Health Data

  • Blockchain was designed as a distributed database, maintained by multiple independent parties, and decentralized
  • Linkage timestamping; although useful in time dependent data, proof that third parties have not been in the process would have to be established including accountability measures
  • Blockchain uses a consensus algorithm even though end users may have their own privacy key
  • Applied cryptography measures and routines are used to decentralize authentication (publicly available)
  • Blockchain users are divided into three main categories: 1) maintainers of blockchain infrastructure, 2) external auditors who store a replica of the blockchain 3) end users or clients and may have access to a relatively small portion of a blockchain but their software may use cryptographic proofs to verify authenticity of data.

 

YouTube video on How #Blockchain Will Transform Healthcare in 25 Years (please click below)

 

 

In Big Data for Better Outcomes, BigData@Heart, DO->IT, EHDN, the EU data Consortia, and yes, even concepts like pay for performance, Richard Bergström has had a hand in their creation. The former Director General of EFPIA, and now the head of health both at SICPA and their joint venture blockchain company Guardtime, Richard is always ahead of the curve. In fact, he’s usually the one who makes the curve in the first place.

 

 

 

Please click on the following link for a podcast on Big Data, Blockchain and Pharma/Healthcare by Richard Bergström:

References

  1. Mamoshina, P., Ojomoko, L., Yanovich, Y., Ostrovski, A., Botezatu, A., Prikhodko, P., Izumchenko, E., Aliper, A., Romantsov, K., Zhebrak, A., Ogu, I. O., and Zhavoronkov, A. (2018) Converging blockchain and next-generation artificial intelligence technologies to decentralize and accelerate biomedical research and healthcare, Oncotarget 9, 5665-5690.
  2. Aliper, A., Plis, S., Artemov, A., Ulloa, A., Mamoshina, P., and Zhavoronkov, A. (2016) Deep Learning Applications for Predicting Pharmacological Properties of Drugs and Drug Repurposing Using Transcriptomic Data, Molecular pharmaceutics 13, 2524-2530.
  3. Wen, M., Zhang, Z., Niu, S., Sha, H., Yang, R., Yun, Y., and Lu, H. (2017) Deep-Learning-Based Drug-Target Interaction Prediction, Journal of proteome research 16, 1401-1409.
  4. Gao, M., Igata, H., Takeuchi, A., Sato, K., and Ikegaya, Y. (2017) Machine learning-based prediction of adverse drug effects: An example of seizure-inducing compounds, Journal of pharmacological sciences 133, 70-78.
  5. Putin, E., Mamoshina, P., Aliper, A., Korzinkin, M., Moskalev, A., Kolosov, A., Ostrovskiy, A., Cantor, C., Vijg, J., and Zhavoronkov, A. (2016) Deep biomarkers of human aging: Application of deep neural networks to biomarker development, Aging 8, 1021-1033.
  6. Vandenberghe, M. E., Scott, M. L., Scorer, P. W., Soderberg, M., Balcerzak, D., and Barker, C. (2017) Relevance of deep learning to facilitate the diagnosis of HER2 status in breast cancer, Scientific reports 7, 45938.
  7. Kadurin, A., Nikolenko, S., Khrabrov, K., Aliper, A., and Zhavoronkov, A. (2017) druGAN: An Advanced Generative Adversarial Autoencoder Model for de Novo Generation of New Molecules with Desired Molecular Properties in Silico, Molecular pharmaceutics 14, 3098-3104.
  8. Ordonez, F. J., and Roggen, D. (2016) Deep Convolutional and LSTM Recurrent Neural Networks for Multimodal Wearable Activity Recognition, Sensors (Basel) 16.

 

Other Articles in this Open Access Journal on Digital Health include:

Can Mobile Health Apps Improve Oral-Chemotherapy Adherence? The Benefit of Gamification.

Medical Applications and FDA regulation of Sensor-enabled Mobile Devices: Apple and the Digital Health Devices Market

 

How Social Media, Mobile Are Playing a Bigger Part in Healthcare

 

E-Medical Records Get A Mobile, Open-Sourced Overhaul By White House Health Design Challenge Winners

 

Medcity Converge 2018 Philadelphia: Live Coverage @pharma_BI

 

Digital Health Breakthrough Business Models, June 5, 2018 @BIOConvention, Boston, BCEC

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Bioinformatics Tool Review: Genome Variant Analysis Tools

Curator: Stephen J. Williams, Ph.D.

Updated 11/15/2018

The following post will be an ongoing curation of reviews of gene variant bioinformatic software.

 

The Ensembl Variant Effect Predictor.

McLaren W, Gil L, Hunt SE, Riat HS, Ritchie GR, Thormann A, Flicek P, Cunningham F.

Genome Biol. 2016 Jun 6;17(1):122. doi: 10.1186/s13059-016-0974-4.

Author information

1

European Molecular Biology Laboratory, European Bioinformatics Institute, Wellcome Genome Campus, Hinxton, Cambridge, CB10 1SD, UK. wm2@ebi.ac.uk.

2

European Molecular Biology Laboratory, European Bioinformatics Institute, Wellcome Genome Campus, Hinxton, Cambridge, CB10 1SD, UK.

3

European Molecular Biology Laboratory, European Bioinformatics Institute, Wellcome Genome Campus, Hinxton, Cambridge, CB10 1SD, UK. fiona@ebi.ac.uk.

Abstract

The Ensembl Variant Effect Predictor is a powerful toolset for the analysis, annotation, and prioritization of genomic variants in coding and non-coding regions. It provides access to an extensive collection of genomic annotation, with a variety of interfaces to suit different requirements, and simple options for configuring and extending analysis. It is open source, free to use, and supports full reproducibility of results. The Ensembl Variant Effect Predictor can simplify and accelerate variant interpretation in a wide range of study designs.

 

Rare diseases can be difficult to diagnose due to low incidence and incomplete penetrance of implicated alleles however variant analysis of whole genome sequencing can identify underlying genetic events responsible for the disease (Nature, 2015).  However, a large cohort is required for many WGS association studies in order to produce enough statistical power for interpretation (see post and here).  To this effect major sequencing projects have been initiated worldwide including:

A more thorough curation of sequencing projects can be seen in the following post:

Icelandic Population Genomic Study Results by deCODE Genetics come to Fruition: Curation of Current genomic studies

 

And although sequencing costs have dramatically been reduced over the years, the costs to determine the functional consequences of such variants remains high, as thorough basic research studies must be conducted to validate the interpretation of variant data with respect to the underlying disease, as only a small fraction of variants from a genome sequencing project will encode for a functional protein.  Correct annotation of sequences and variants, identification of correct corresponding reference genes or transcripts in GENCODE or RefSeq respectively offer compelling challenges to the proper identification of sequenced variants as potential functional variants.

To this effect, the authors developed the Ensembl Variant Effect Predictor (VEP), which is a software suite that performs annotations and analysis of most types of genomic variation in coding and non-coding regions of the genome.

Summary of Features

  • Annotation: VEP can annotate two broad categories of genomic variants
    • Sequence variants with specific and defined changes: indels, base substitutions, SNVs, tandem repeats
    • Larger structural variants > 50 nucleotides
  • Species and assembly/genomic database support: VEP can analyze data from any species with assembled genome sequence and annotated gene set. VEP supports chromosome assemblies such as the latest GRCh38, FASTA, as well as transcripts from RefSeq as well as user-derived sequences
  • Transcript Annotation: VEP includes a wide variety of gene and transcript related information including NCBI Gene ID, Gene Symbol, Transcript ID, NCBI RefSeq ID, exon/intron information, and cross reference to other databases such as UniProt
  • Protein Annotation: Protein-related fields include Protein ID, RefSeq ID, SwissProt, UniParc ID, reference codons and amino acids, SIFT pathogenicity score, protein domains
  • Noncoding Annotation: VEP reports variants in noncoding regions including genomic regulatory regions, intronic regions, transcription binding motifs. Data from ENCODE, BLUEPRINT, and NIH Epigenetics RoadMap are used for primary annotation.  Plugins to the Perl coding are also available to link other databases which annotate noncoding sequence features.
  • Frequency, phenotype, and citation annotation: VEP searches Ensembl databases containing a large amount of germline variant information and checks variants against the dbSNP single nucleotide polymorphism database. VEP integrates with mutational databases such as COSMIC, the Human Gene Mutation Database, and structural and copy number variants from Database of Genomic Variants.  Allele Frequencies are reported from 1000 Genomes and NHLBI and integrates with PubMed for literature annotation.  Phenotype information is from OMIM, Orphanet, GWAS and clinical information of variants from ClinVar.
  • Flexible Input and Output Formats: VEP supports input data format called “variant call format” or VCP, a standard in next-gen sequencing. VEP has the ability to process variant identifiers from other database formats.  Output formats are tab deliminated and give the user choices in presentation of results (HTML or text based)
  • Choice of user interface
    • Online tool (VEP Web): simple point and click; incorporates Instant VEP Functionality and copy and paste features. Results can be stored online in cloud storage on Ensembl.
    • VEP script: VEP is available as a downloadable PERL script (see below for link) and can process large amounts of data rapidly. This interface is powerfully flexible with the ability to integrate multiple plugins available from Ensembl and GitHub.  The ability to alter the PERL code and add plugins and code functions allows the flexibility to modify any feature of VEP.
    • VEP REST API: provides robust computational access to any programming language and returns basic variant annotation. Can make use of external plugins.

 

 

Watch Video on VES Instructional Webinar: https://youtu.be/7Fs7MHfXjWk

Watch Video on VES Web Version training on How to Analyze Your Sequence in VEP

 

 

Availability of data and materials

The dataset supporting the conclusions of this article is available from Illumina’s Platinum Genomes [93] and using the Ensembl release 75 gene set. Pre-built data sets are available for all Ensembl and Ensembl Genomes species [94]. They can also be downloaded automatically during set up whilst installing the VEP.

 

References

Large-scale discovery of novel genetic causes of developmental disorders.

Deciphering Developmental Disorders Study.

Nature2015 Mar 12;519(7542):223-8. doi: 10.1038/nature14135. PMID:25533962

Updated 11/15/2018

 

Research Points to Caution in Use of Variant Effect Prediction Bioinformatic Tools

Although we have the ability to use high throughput sequencing to identify allelic variants occurring in rare disease, correlation of these variants with the underlying disease is often difficult due to a few concerns:

  • For rare sporadic diseases, classical gene/variant association studies have proven difficult to perform (Meyts et al. 2016)
  • As Whole Exome Sequencing (WES) returns a considerable number of variants, how to differentiate the normal allelic variation found in the human population from disease-causing pathogenic alleles
  • For rare diseases, pathogenic allele frequencies are generally low

Therefore, for these rare pathogenic alleles, the use of bioinformatics tools in order to predict the resulting changes in gene function may provide insight into disease etiology when validation of these allelic changes might be experimentally difficult.

In a 2017 Genes & Immunity paper, Line Lykke Andersen and Rune Hartmann tested the reliability of various bioinformatic software to predict the functional consequence of variants of six different genes involved in interferon induction and sixteen allelic variants of the IFNLR1 gene.  These variants were found in cohorts of patients presenting with herpes simplex encephalitis (HSE). Most of the adult population is seropositive for Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV) however a minor fraction (1 in 250,000 individuals per year) of HSV infected individuals will develop HSE (Hjalmarsson et al., 2007).  It has been suggested that HSE occurs in individuals with rare primary immunodeficiencies caused by gene defects affecting innate immunity through reduced production of interferons (IFN) (Zhang et al., Lim et al.).

 

References

Meyts I, Bosch B, Bolze A, Boisson B, Itan Y, Belkadi A, et al. Exome and genome sequencing for inborn errors of immunity. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2016;138:957–69.

Hjalmarsson A, Blomqvist P, Skoldenberg B. Herpes simplex encephalitis in Sweden, 1990-2001: incidence, morbidity, and mortality. Clin Infect Dis. 2007;45:875–80.

Zhang SY, Jouanguy E, Ugolini S, Smahi A, Elain G, Romero P, et al. TLR3 deficiency in patients with herpes simplex encephalitis. Science. 2007;317:1522–7.

Lim HK, Seppanen M, Hautala T, Ciancanelli MJ, Itan Y, Lafaille FG, et al. TLR3 deficiency in herpes simplex encephalitis: high allelic heterogeneity and recurrence risk. Neurology. 2014;83:1888–97.

 

Genes Immun. 2017 Dec 4. doi: 10.1038/s41435-017-0002-z.

Frequently used bioinformatics tools overestimate the damaging effect of allelic variants.

Andersen LL1Terczyńska-Dyla E1Mørk N2Scavenius C1Enghild JJ1Höning K3Hornung V3,4Christiansen M5,6Mogensen TH2,6Hartmann R7.

 

Abstract

We selected two sets of naturally occurring human missense allelic variants within innate immune genes. The first set represented eleven non-synonymous variants in six different genes involved in interferon (IFN) induction, present in a cohort of patients suffering from herpes simplex encephalitis (HSE) and the second set represented sixteen allelic variants of the IFNLR1 gene. We recreated the variants in vitro and tested their effect on protein function in a HEK293T cell based assay. We then used an array of 14 available bioinformatics tools to predict the effect of these variants upon protein function. To our surprise two of the most commonly used tools, CADD and SIFT, produced a high rate of false positives, whereas SNPs&GO exhibited the lowest rate of false positives in our test. As the problem in our test in general was false positive variants, inclusion of mutation significance cutoff (MSC) did not improve accuracy.

Methodology

  1. Identification of rare variants
  2. Genomes of nineteen Dutch patients with a history of HSE sequenced by WES and identification of novel HSE causing variants determined by filtering the single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) that had a frequency below 1% in the NHBLI Exome Sequencing Project Exome Variant Server and the 1000 Genomes Project and were present within 204 genes involved in the immune response to HSV.
  3. Identified variants (204) manually evaluated for involvement of IFN induction based on IDBase and KEGG pathway database analysis.
  4. In-silico predictions: Variants classified by the in silico variant pathogenicity prediction programs: SIFT, Mutation Assessor, FATHMM, PROVEAN, SNAP2, PolyPhen2, PhD-SNP, SNP&GO, FATHMM-MKL, MutationTaster2, PredictSNP, Condel, MetaSNP, and CADD. Each program returned prediction scores measuring likelihood of a variant either being ‘deleterious’ or ‘neutral’. Prediction accuracy measured as

ACC = (true positive+true negative)/(true positive+true negative+false positive+false negative)

 

  1. Validation of prediction software/tools

In order to validate the predictive value of the software, HEK293T cells, deficient in IRF3, MAVS, and IKKe/TBK1, were cotransfected with the nine variants of the aforementioned genes and a luciferase reporter under control of the IFN-b promoter and luciferase activity measured as an indicator of IFN signaling function.  Western blot was performed to confirm the expression of the constructs.

 

Results

Table 2 Summary of the
bioinformatic predictions
HSE variants IFNLR1 variants Overall ACC
TN TP FN FP Total ACC TN TP FN FP Total ACC
Uniform cutoff
SIFT 4 1 0 4 9 0.56 8 1 0 7 16 0.56 0.56
Mutation assessor 6 1 0 2 9 0.78 9 1 0 6 16 0.63 0.68
FATHMM 7 1 0 1 9 0.89 0.89
PROVEAN 8 1 0 0 9 1.00 11 1 0 4 16 0.75 0.84
SNAP2 5 1 0 3 9 0.67 8 0 1 7 16 0.50 0.56
PolyPhen2 6 1 0 2 9 0.78 12 1 0 3 16 0.81 0.80
PhD-SNP 7 1 0 1 9 0.89 11 1 0 4 16 0.75 0.80
SNPs&GO 8 1 0 0 9 1.00 14 1 0 1 16 0.94 0.96
FATHMM MKL 4 1 0 4 9 0.56 13 0 1 2 16 0.81 0.72
MutationTaster2 4 0 1 4 9 0.44 14 0 1 1 16 0.88 0.72
PredictSNP 6 1 0 2 9 0.78 11 1 0 4 16 0.75 0.76
Condel 6 1 0 2 9 0.78 0.78
Meta-SNP 8 1 0 0 9 1.00 11 1 0 4 16 0.75 0.84
CADD 2 1 0 6 9 0.33 8 0 1 7 16 0.50 0.44
MSC 95% cutoff
SIFT 5 1 0 3 9 0.67 8 1 0 8 16 0.50 0.56
PolyPhen2 6 1 0 2 9 0.78 13 1 0 3 16 0.81 0.80
CADD 4 1 0 4 9 0.56 7 0 1 9 16 0.44 0.48

 

Note: TN: true negative, TP: true positive, FN: false negative, FP: false positive, ACC: accuracy

Functional testing (data obtained from reporter construct experiments) were considered as the correct outcome.

Three prediction tools (PROVEAN, SNP&GO, and MetaSNP correctly predicted the effect of all nine variants tested.

 

Other articles related to Genomics and Bioinformatics on this online Open Access Journal Include:

Finding the Genetic Links in Common Disease: Caveats of Whole Genome Sequencing Studies

 

Large-scale sequencing does not support the idea that lower-frequency variants have a major role in predisposition to type 2 diabetes

 

US Personalized Cancer Genome Sequencing Market Outlook 2018 –

 

Icelandic Population Genomic Study Results by deCODE Genetics come to Fruition: Curation of Current genomic studies

 

 

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Single-cell Genomics: Directions in Computational and Systems Biology – Contributions of Prof. Aviv Regev @Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, Cochair, the Human Cell Atlas Organizing Committee with Sarah Teichmann of the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute

 

Curator: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN

 

Dana Pe’er, PhD, now chair of computational and systems biology at the Sloan Kettering Institute at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and a member of the Human Cell Atlas Organizing Committee,

what really sets Regev apart is the elegance of her work. Regev, says Pe’er, “has a rare, innate ability of seeing complex biology and simplifying it and formalizing it into beautiful, abstract, describable principles.”

Dr. Aviv Regev, an MIT biology professor who is also chair of the faculty of the Broad and director of its Klarman Cell Observatory and Cell Circuits Program, was reviewing a newly published white paper detailing how the Human Cell Atlas is expected to change the way we diagnose, monitor, and treat disease at a gathering of international scientists at Israel’s Weizmann Institute of Science, 10/2017.

For Regev, the importance of the Human Cell Atlas goes beyond its promise to revolutionize biology and medicine. As she once put it, without an atlas of our cells, “we don’t really know what we’re made of.”

Regev, turned to a technique known as RNA interference (she now uses CRISPR), which allowed her to systematically shut genes down. Then she looked at which genes were expressed to determine how the cells’ response changed in each case. Her team singled out 100 different genes that were involved in regulating the response to the pathogens—some of which weren’t previously known to be involved in immune function. The study, published in Science, generated headlines.

The project, the Human Cell Atlas, aims to create a reference map that categorizes all the approximately 37 trillion cells that make up a human. The Human Cell Atlas is often compared to the Human Genome Project, the monumental scientific collaboration that gave us a complete readout of human DNA, or what might be considered the unabridged cookbook for human life. In a sense, the atlas is a continuation of that project’s work. But while the same DNA cookbook is found in every cell, each cell type reads only some of the recipes—that is, it expresses only certain genes, following their DNA instructions to produce the proteins that carry out a cell’s activities. The promise of the Human Cell Atlas is to reveal which specific genes are expressed in every cell type, and where the cells expressing those genes can be found.

Regev says,

The final product, will amount to nothing less than a “periodic table of our cells,” a tool that is designed not to answer one specific question but to make countless new discoveries possible.

Sequencing the RNA of the cells she’s studying can tell her only so much. To understand how the circuits change under different circumstances, Regev subjects cells to different stimuli, such as hormones or pathogens, to see how the resulting protein signals change.

“the modeling step”—creating algorithms that try to decipher the most likely sequence of molecular events following a stimulus. And just as someone might study a computer by cutting out circuits and seeing how that changes the machine’s operation, Regev tests her model by seeing if it can predict what will happen when she silences specific genes and then exposes the cells to the same stimulus.

By sequencing the RNA of individual cancer cells in recent years—“Every cell is an experiment now,” she says—she has found remarkable differences between the cells of a single tumor, even when they have the same mutations. (Last year that work led to Memorial Sloan Kettering’s Paul Marks Prize for Cancer Research.) She found that while some cancers are thought to develop resistance to therapy, a subset of melanoma cells were resistant from the start. And she discovered that two types of brain cancer, oligodendroglioma and astrocytoma, harbor the same cancer stem cells, which could have important implications for how they’re treated.

As a 2017 overview of the Human Cell Atlas by the project’s organizing committee noted, an atlas “is a map that aims to show the relationships among its elements.” Just as corresponding coastlines seen in an atlas of Earth offer visual evidence of continental drift, compiling all the data about our cells in one place could reveal relationships among cells, tissues, and organs, including some that are entirely unexpected. And just as the periodic table made it possible to predict the existence of elements yet to be observed, the Human Cell Atlas, Regev says, could help us predict the existence of cells that haven’t been found.

This year alone it will fund 85 Human Cell Atlas grants. Early results are already pouring in.

  • In March, Swedish researchers working on cells related to human development announced they had sequenced 250,000 individual cells.
  • In May, a team at the Broad made a data set of more than 500,000 immune cells available on a preview site.

The goal, Regev says, is for researchers everywhere to be able to use the open-source platform of the Human Cell Atlas to perform joint analyses.

Eric Lander, PhDthe founding director and president of the Broad Institute and a member of the Human Cell Atlas Organizing Committee, likens it to genomics.

“People thought at the beginning they might use genomics for this application or that application,” he says. “Nothing has failed to be transformed by genomics, and nothing will fail to be transformed by having a cell atlas.”

“How did we ever imagine we were going to solve a problem without single-cell resolution?”

SOURCE

https://www.technologyreview.com/s/611786/the-cartographer-of-cells/?utm_source=MIT+Technology+Review&utm_campaign=Alumni-Newsletter_Sep-Oct-2018&utm_medium=email

Other related articles published in this Open Access Online Scientific Journal include the following:

 

University of California Santa Cruz’s Genomics Institute will create a Map of Human Genetic Variations

Reporter: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN

https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/2015/01/13/university-of-california-santa-cruzs-genomics-institute-will-create-a-map-of-human-genetic-variations/

 

Recognitions for Contributions in Genomics by Dan David Prize Awards

Reporter: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN

https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/2017/07/31/recognitions-for-contributions-in-genomics-by-dan-david-prize-awards/

 

ENCODE (Encyclopedia of DNA Elements) program: ‘Tragic’ Sequestration Impact on NHGRI Programs

Reporter: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN

https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/2013/09/18/encode-encyclopedia-of-dna-elements-program-tragic-sequestration-impact-on-nhgri-programs/

 

Single-cell Sequencing

Genomic Diagnostics: Three Techniques to Perform Single Cell Gene Expression and Genome Sequencing Single Molecule DNA Sequencing

Curator: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN

https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/2017/07/04/genomic-diagnostics-three-techniques-to-perform-single-cell-gene-expression-and-genome-sequencing-single-molecule-dna-sequencing/

 

LIVE – Real Time – 16th Annual Cancer Research Symposium, Koch Institute, Friday, June 16, 9AM – 5PM, Kresge Auditorium, MIT – See, Aviv Regev

REAL TIME PRESS COVERAGE & Reporter: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN

https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/2017/03/13/16th-annual-cancer-research-symposium-koch-institute-friday-june-16-9am-5pm-kresge-auditorium-mit/

 

LIVE 11/3/2015 1:30PM @The 15th Annual EmTech MIT – MIT Media Lab: Top 10 Breakthrough Technologies & 2015 Innovators Under 35 – See, Gilead Evrony

REAL TIME PRESS COVERAGE & Reporter: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN
https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/2015/11/03/live-1132015-130pm-the-15th-annual-emtech-mit-mit-media-lab-top-10-breakthrough-technologies-2015-innovators-under-35/

 

Cellular Guillotine Created for Studying Single-Cell Wound Repair

Reporter: Irina Robu, PhD

https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/2017/06/29/cellular-guillotine-created-for-studying-single-cell-wound-repair/

 

New subgroups of ILC immune cells discovered through single-cell RNA sequencing

Reporter: Stephen J Williams, PhD

https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/2016/02/17/new-subgroups-of-ilc-immune-cells-discovered-through-single-cell-rna-sequencing-from-karolinska-institute/

 

#JPM16: Illumina’s CEO on new genotyping array called Infinium XT and Bio-Rad Partnership for single-cell sequencing workflow

Reporter: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN

https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/2016/01/12/jpm16-illuminas-ceo-on-new-genotyping-array-called-infinium-xt-and-bio-rad-partnership-for-single-cell-sequencing-workflow/

 

Juno Acquires AbVitro for $125M: high-throughput and single-cell sequencing capabilities for Immune-Oncology Drug Discovery

Reporter: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN

https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/2016/01/12/juno-acquires-abvitro-for-125m-high-throughput-and-single-cell-sequencing-capabilities-for-immune-oncology-drug-discovery/

 

NIH to Award Up to $12M to Fund DNA, RNA Sequencing Research: single-cell genomics,  sample preparation,  transcriptomics and epigenomics, and  genome-wide functional analysis.

Reporter: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN

https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/2015/10/27/nih-to-award-up-to-12m-to-fund-dna-rna-sequencing-research-single-cell-genomics-sample-preparation-transcriptomics-and-epigenomics-and-genome-wide-functional-analysis/

 

Genome-wide Single-Cell Analysis of Recombination Activity and De Novo Mutation Rates in Human Sperm

Reporter and Curator: Dr. Sudipta Saha, Ph.D.

https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/2012/08/07/genome-wide-single-cell-analysis-of-recombination-activity-and-de-novo-mutation-rates-in-human-sperm/

REFERENCES to Original studies

In Science, 2018

Single-cell RNA-seq reveals new types of human blood dendritic cells, monocytes, and progenitors

 See all authors and affiliations

Science  21 Apr 2017:
Vol. 356, Issue 6335, eaah4573
DOI: 10.1126/science.aah4573
Single-cell reconstruction of developmental trajectories during zebrafish embryogenesis

See all authors and affiliations

Science  26 Apr 2018:
eaar3131
DOI: 10.1126/science.aar3131

In Nature, 2018 and 2017

How to build a human cell atlas

Aviv Regev is a maven of hard-core biological analyses. Now she is part of an effort to map every cell in the human body.

  1. Research | 

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  3. Research | 

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  6. Amendments and Corrections | 

  7. Research |  | OPEN

  8. Research | 

  9. Amendments and Corrections | 

  10. Comments and Opinion | 

  11. Research | 

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5:00 – 5:45 PM Early Diagnosis Through Predictive Biomarkers, NonInvasive Testing

Reporter: Stephen J. Williams, Ph.D.

 

Diagnosing cancer early is often the difference between survival and death. Hear from experts regarding the new and emerging technologies that form the next generation of cancer diagnostics.

Moderator: Heather Rose, Director of Licensing, Thomas Jefferson University
Speakers:
Bonnie Anderson, Chairman and CEO, Veracyte @BonnieAndDx
Kevin Hrusovsky, Founder and Chairman, Powering Precision Health @KevinHrusovsky

Bonnie Anderson and Veracyte produces genomic tests for thyroid and other cancer diagnosis.  Kevin Hrusovksy and Precision Health uses peer reviewed evidence based medicine to affect precision medicine decision.

Bonnie: aim to get a truth of diagnosis.  Getting tumor tissue is paramount as well as properly preserved tissue.  They use deep RNA sequencing  and machine learning  in their clinically approved tests.

Kevin: Serial biospace entrepreneur.  Two diseases, cancer and neurologic, have been diseases which have been hardest to get reproducible and validated biomarkers of early disease.  He concentrates on protein biomarkers.

Heather:  FDA has recently approved drugs for early disease intervention.  However the use of biomarkers can go beyond patient stratification in clinical trials.

Kevin: 15 approved drugs for MS but the markers are scans looking for brain atrophy which is too late of an endpoint.  So we need biomarkers of early disease progression.  We can use those early biomarkers of disease progression so pharma can target those early biomarkers and or use those early biomarkers of disease progression  for endpoint

Bonnie: exciting time in the early diagnostics field. She prefers transcriptomics to DNA based methods such as WES or WGS (whole exome or whole genome sequencing).  It was critical to show data on the cost savings imparted by their transcriptomic based thryoid cancer diagnostic test for payers to consider this test eligible for reimbursement.

Kevin: There has been 20 million  CAT scans for  cancer but it is estimated 90% of these scans led to misdiagnosis. Biomarker  development  has revolutionized diagnostics in this disease area.  They have developed a breakthrough panel of ten protein biomarkers in serum which he estimates may replace 5 million mammograms.

All panelists agreed on the importance of regulatory compliance and the focus of new research should be on early detection.  In addition they believe that Dr. Gotlieb’s appointment to the FDA is a positive for the biomarker development field, as Dr. Gotlieb understands the potential and importance of early detection and prevention of disease.  Kevin also felt Dr. Gotlieb understands the importance of incorporating biomarkers as endpoints in clinical trials.  Over 750 phase 1,2, and 3 clinical trials use biomarker endpoints but the pharma companies still need to prove the biomarkers clinical relevance to the FDA.They also agreed it would be helpful to involve advocacy groups in putting more pressure on the healthcare providers and policy makers on this importance of diagnostics as a preventative measure.

In addition, the discovery and use of biomarkers as disease endpoints has led to a resurgence of Alzheimer’s disease drug development by companies which have previously given up on these type of neurodegenerative diseases.

Kevin feels proteomics offers great advantages over DNA-based diagnostics, especially in cancer such as ovarian cancer, where a high degree of specificity for a diagnostic test is required to ascertain if a woman should undergo prophylactic oophorectomy.  He suggests that a new blood-based protein biomarker panel is being developed for early detection of some forms of ovarian cancer.

Please follow on Twitter using the following #hash tags and @pharma_BI

#MCConverge

#cancertreatment

#healthIT

#innovation

#precisionmedicine

#healthcaremodels

#personalizedmedicine

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And at the following handles:

@pharma_BI

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Please see related articles on Live Coverage of Previous Meetings on this Open Access Journal

LIVE – Real Time – 16th Annual Cancer Research Symposium, Koch Institute, Friday, June 16, 9AM – 5PM, Kresge Auditorium, MIT

Real Time Coverage and eProceedings of Presentations on 11/16 – 11/17, 2016, The 12th Annual Personalized Medicine Conference, HARVARD MEDICAL SCHOOL, Joseph B. Martin Conference Center, 77 Avenue Louis Pasteur, Boston

Tweets Impression Analytics, Re-Tweets, Tweets and Likes by @AVIVA1950 and @pharma_BI for 2018 BioIT, Boston, 5/15 – 5/17, 2018

BIO 2018! June 4-7, 2018 at Boston Convention & Exhibition Center

https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/press-coverage/

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Cracking the Genome – Inside the Race to Unlock Human DNA – quotes in newspapers

Reporter: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN

 

Cracking the Genome

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Cracking the Genome

Inside the Race to Unlock Human DNA

In 1953, James Watson and Francis Crick unveiled the double helix structure of DNA. The discovery was a profound moment in the history of science, but solving the structure of the genetic material did not reveal what the human genome sequence actually was, or what it says about who we are. Cracking the code of life would take another half a century.

In 2001, two rival teams of scientists shared the acclaim for sequencing the human genome. Kevin Davies, founding editor of Nature Genetics, has relentlessly followed the story as it unfolded week by week since the dawn of the Human Genome Project in 1990. Here, in rich human and scientific detail, is the compelling story of one of the greatest scientific feats ever accomplished: the sequencing of the human genome.

In brilliant, accessible prose, Davies captures the drama of this momentous achievement, drawing on his own genetics expertise and on interviews with the key scientists. Davies details the fraught rivalry between the public consortium, chaperoned by Francis Collins, and Celera Genomics, directed by sequencer J. Craig Venter. And in this newly updated edition, Davies sheds light on the secrets of the sequence, highlighting the myriad ways in which genomics will impact human health for the generations to come.

Cracking the Genome is the definitive, balanced account of how the code that holds the answer to the origin of life, the evolution of humanity, and the future of medicine was finally broken.

Kevin Davies is the founding editor of Nature Genetics and is currently editor-in-chief of Bio•IT World. He graduated from Oxford University and holds a Ph.D. in genetics from the University of London.

“For an up-to-the-minute account of one of the most dramatic periods in present-day science, Cracking the Genome is an essential read.”

“A superb job… A tantalizing glimpse of the ethical perils and technological possibilities awaiting humanity.”

“A rollicking good tale about an enduring intellectual monument.”

“The race is over, and Davies was there, all along, providing the running commentary—and there, too, at the finish line. In Cracking the Genome, he hands out the prizes.”

“Davies has tracked one of the most important stories ever to unfold. Davies helps readers understand how the deciphering of our genetic code will revolutionize our lives while posing serious ethical dilemmas.”

“An impressive job of contextualizing the science within a political, economic, and social framework, creating a lively tale as accessible to non—specialists as it is to scientists.”

“Investors and others looking for a quick primer on the science and business of biotechnology will find this a useful guide.”

“In Davies’ prose, this story of molecular biology and the Human Genome Project is as compelling as any Arthurian legend. In a fast-moving approachable style, Davies captures the uncovering of biology’s Holy Grail, relying on his own expertise in genetics and interviews with key players such as Collins and Venter.”

SOURCE

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SNP-based Study on high BMI exposure confirms CVD and DM Risks – no associations with Stroke

Reporter: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN

Genes Affirm: High BMI Carries Weighty Heart, Diabetes Risk – Mendelian randomization study adds to ‘burgeoning evidence’

by Crystal Phend, Senior Associate Editor, MedPage Today, July 05, 2017

 

The “genetically instrumented” measure of high BMI exposure — calculated based on 93 single-nucleotide polymorphisms associated with BMI in prior genome-wide association studies — was associated with the following risks (odds ratios given per standard deviation higher BMI):

  • Hypertension (OR 1.64, 95% CI 1.48-1.83)
  • Coronary heart disease (CHD; OR 1.35, 95% CI 1.09-1.69)
  • Type 2 diabetes (OR 2.53, 95% CI 2.04-3.13)
  • Systolic blood pressure (β 1.65 mm Hg, 95% CI 0.78-2.52 mm Hg)
  • Diastolic blood pressure (β 1.37 mm Hg, 95% CI 0.88-1.85 mm Hg)

However, there were no associations with stroke, Donald Lyall, PhD, of the University of Glasgow, and colleagues reported online in JAMA Cardiology.

The associations independent of age, sex, Townsend deprivation scores, alcohol intake, and smoking history were found in baseline data from 119,859 participants in the population-based U.K. Biobank who had complete medical, sociodemographic, and genetic data.

“The main advantage of an MR approach is that certain types of study bias can be minimized,” the team noted. “Because DNA is stable and randomly inherited, which helps to mitigate errors from reverse causality and confounding, genetic variation can be used as a proxy for lifetime BMI to overcome limitations such as reverse causality and confounding, a process that hampers observational analyses of obesity and its consequences.”

 

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Genomic Diagnostics: Three Techniques to Perform Single Cell Gene Expression and Genome Sequencing Single Molecule DNA Sequencing

Curator: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN

 

This article presents Three Techniques to Perform Single Cell Gene Expression and Genome Sequencing Single molecule DNA sequencing

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