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There are about 20,000 human genes. So why do scientists only study a small fraction of them?
Sequencing the human genome in the 1990s was supposed to reveal the entire universe of genes important to health and disease. But a handful of recent studies have shown that, surprisingly, researchers still focus mainly on only about 2000 of the roughly 19,000 human genes that code for proteins.
Thomas - Stoeger - Systems - Biologist - Northwestern
Thomas Stoeger, a systems biologist at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, wondered why. Now, after conducting a massive bioinformatics analysis reported today in PLOS Biology, he thinks he knows. Some of the reasons are obvious; others, less so.
Stoeger, Luís Amaral, and colleagues scoured several dozen databases and other resources to compile 430 features of more than 12,000 genes, such as when a gene was first discovered and the chemical and physical properties of its protein. Machine learning algorithms then worked through those data to find correlations with measures of popularity, such as number of publications on a gene and National Institutes of Health funding devoted to it. Unexpectedly, the analysis found that a combination of just 15 gene traits can largely predict how popular a gene has been and whether study of it has led to a medical drug.
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Science - Stoeger - DNA - Favoritism - Matters
Science talked to Stoeger about why such DNA favoritism matters and how biologists can force themselves to unearth hidden genome gems. This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Q: So why do researchers have a bias for certain genes?
Genes - Attention - Assay
A: Genes that express more protein get more attention because they’re easier to study—there is more material to put through an assay. Similarly, it’s...
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