University of Basel scientists use a supercomputer to discover inter-relationships in the human genome

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supercomputer to discover inter-relationships in the human genome

Human genome

Scientists at the University of Basel made use of the CSCS supercomputer Piz Daint to discover inter-relationships in the human genome that might simplify the search for “memory molecules”.

Every human being’s physical and mental constitution is the outcome of a complex interaction between environmental factors and the DNA. The set of genes and the genetic information stores in the genotype. This genotype influences a person’s memory and hence the ability to remember the past. In addition to the DNA coding, there are other factors contributing to memory capacity.

To investigate memory capacity, researchers use brainwave measurements, memory tests and imaging techniques while the brain is subjected to various stimuli. The researchers also make use of animal models, also genetic and epigenetic studies. The latter examines phenomena and mechanisms that cause chemical changes in the chromosomes and genes without altering their actual DNA sequence.

Memory molecules

To decode the molecular basis of memory capacity, researchers “zoom” deep into the human DNA. For this purpose, researchers examine gene segments and their variants. The results might significantly simplify future analysis of large datasets in the search for the “memory molecules.”

Although, the DNA fixed in all cells, mechanisms, like epigenetic processes exist that regulate which parts of the code expressed.

Using material sampled from healthy volunteers, researchers examined 500,000 genetic variations known as Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPs), the basic building blocks of nucleic acids in conjunction with 400,000 flag-patterns. They investigate the impact of the genetic code on methylation.

According to the researchers, the results of their study show not only that single SNPs located nearby the flags have an impact on the flag-pattern, but also that combinations of genetic variants both in proximity and farther apart in the genome affect this flag-pattern. This shows us that genetic variants exert a complex influence on methylation. The flag-pattern unifies the impact of a larger set of genetic variants represented in one signal. This approach currently stands is still basic research.

More information: [Scientific Reports]