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article imageStartup develops technique to predict cerebral palsy

By Tim Sandle     Jul 27, 2018 in Science
A innovative technique has been developed to hep to predict cerebral palsy. The technique is based on next-generation genetic sequencing data, which measures how cells control the way genes are switched on or off.
The new technique was developed to analyze genetic activity of Antarctic worms. In an applied way, the method is now being used to predict cerebral palsy. The idea came about when When University of Delaware molecular biologist Adam Marsh was studying the DNA of worms found in Antarctica's seas to understand. The research was geared towards understanding how the worms survive the extremely harsh polar environment.
The reason why the research is applicable is because the genome of Antarctic worms is very similar to those of humans, in relation to the types of genes found. To explore the usefulness of the method for human-centric research, Dr. Marsh and a colleague established a startup biotechnology company called GenPro.
The technique developed by the research group is based on using next-generation genetic sequencing data to measure how human cells control the way genes are switched on or off. This is a process called DNA methylation. Methylation can change the activity of a DNA segment without changing the sequence.
The outcome of a research study reveals that DNA methylation patterns in circulating blood cells can be used to help identify spastic cerebral palsy patients. Cerebral palsy is a group of permanent movement disorders that appear in early childhood; the difficulty with early diagnosis is that the signs and symptoms in childhood vary. This is based on the premise that subtle changes in a patient's physical health are paralleled by changes in DNA methylation.
According to Dr. Marsh: "Many of the signals that we are picking up are based on immune system shifts -- meaning the way a person's immune system responds to external stress events."
The new research has been published in the journal BMC Bioinformatics, with the paper headed "Epigenetic machine learning: utilizing DNA methylation patterns to predict spastic cerebral palsy."
More about Cerebral palsy, Data, data science, Startup
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