Genes and environment: complex interactions at the heart of personalized medicine

Personalized medicine uses methods of molecular analysis, especially genetic sequencing and transcription, in order to simultaneously identify genetic mutations to evaluate each individual’s risk of contracting a given disease. It seems that there is more than a single mechanism at hand, as proven by the work of a team of geneticists at the University of Geneva’s (UNIGE) Faculty of Medicine, and the SIB Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics.

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Searching for the molecular clues to longer life spans in ants

Over evolutionary time, the ant lineage has undergone spectacular adaptations. To identify their molecular origins, researchers from the University of Lausanne examined signatures of positive selection on genes from seven ant genomes. The work was led by Julien Roux, then postdoctoral researcher and e-bioinformatician in the lab of Laurent Keller in the Department of Ecology and Evolution, and also involved other SIB members from the laboratories of Marc Robinson-Rechavi and Laurent Excoffier.

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Highly evolvable malaria-carrying mosquitoes

Anopheles mosquitoes are responsible for transmitting human malaria parasites that cause an estimated 200 million cases and more than 600 thousand deaths each year. However, of the almost 500 different Anopheles species, only a few dozen can carry the parasite and only a handful of species are responsible for the vast majority of transmissions.

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Male or female? The first sex determining genes appeared in mammals some 180 million years ago

The Y chromosome, which distinguishes males from females at the genetic level, appeared some 180 million years ago. It originated twice independently in all mammals. The team of Prof. Henrik Kaessmann at the Center for Integrative Genomics and the SIB Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics managed to date these events that are crucial for both mammalian evolution and our lives, because the Y chromosome determines whether we are born as a boy or girl.

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Ron Appel and the SIB Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics honoured with the BioAlps Award 2014

Professor Ron Appel, co-founder and Executive Director of the SIB Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics, was honoured with the BioAlps Award 2014 to recognize his major contribution to the creation and successful development of the SIB. By providing the necessary bioinformatics infrastructure for medical and life science research, the institute is instrumental to good science in Switzerland.

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Augmenting genomics through metabolomics

The field of genomics has opened up new perspectives to determine the origins of various phenotypes, such as diseases and physiological traits. Statistical studies that measure correlations between genetic and phenotypic variations within large populations have provided important results, but, so far, have explained only a small fraction of heritability. To address this issue, Rico Rueedi, Prof. Zoltán Kutalik, and Prof. Sven Bergmann of the University of Lausanne investigate, in the context of the CoLaus study, a new approach integrating metabolomics into genomics.

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Parental origin of the genetic code matters for obesity

High-throughput technologies have opened new perspectives to unravel the genetic cause of various diseases or physiological traits, such as body mass index (BMI). Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) measure the correlation between genetic and phenotypic variation in large groups of individuals. However, the discovered genetic associations, even combined, account for only a small fraction of the BMI heritability – in part due to the complexity of obesity. Almost all previous studies assumed that the effect of all genetic variants is the same regardless of whether they are inherited from the mother or the father.

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„Microbial Pompeji“ in dental calculus

Researchers of the University of Zurich have discovered a „microbial Pompeii“ preserved on the teeth of skeletons around 1,000 years old. They found a high concentration of genetic material, as well as numerous opportunistic pathogens and could establish that periodontal disease is caused by the same bacteria today as in the past.

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Cause of rare cancer discovered – new hope for children suffering from rhabdomyosarcoma

A team of scientists from SIB Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics, the Universities of Harvard and Aberdeen, and the Institute of Cancer Research have made a breakthrough in understanding the causes of rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare type of cancer. In their study, published today in Cancer cell, the researchers reveal for the first time the key role a protein called Yap plays in triggering off this type of cancer.

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Automated quantitative histology reveals vascular morphodynamics during Arabidopsis hypocotyl secondary growth

Prof. Christian Hardtke, Director of the Department of Plant Biology at the University of Lausanne, with the help of SIB’s High Performance Computing Group led by Ioannis Xenarios, established an “Automated Quantitative Histology” approach to analyze high-resolution images of hypocotyl cross-sections in an automated manner.

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SIB honours two young bioinformaticians for their outstanding research work

On the occasion of its Foundation Council Meeting in Bern on 26 June, SIB announced the winners of the SIB Awards 2014. The SIB Young Bioinformatician Award and the SIB Best Graduate Paper Award, of CHF 10,000 and CHF 5,000 respectively, are given every year by SIB to recognize the excellent merits of young bioinformaticians.

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Biology’s “dark matter”

Thanks to bioinformatics, researchers from the University of Lausanne have shed light upon a poorly understood category of genes, which produce long non-coding RNA molecules rather than proteins. A few of these genes appeared over 350 million years ago in the common ancestor of 11 species – amongst which humans, the great apes, opossums and frogs. The article was published in Nature, on 19 January 2014.

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