Asheville Draws Scientists Sharing Genetic Array Database
By Jeremy Summers, NCBiotech Writer
Big advances in science and medicine often start with a small step. For relatively young fields of science, that first step is often creating a knowledge base to guide progress. That's what is bringing together scientists for a conference in Asheville.
This group is convening to talk about array-based cytogenomics. They study the structures of genomes -- the complete sets of genetic materials of an organism.
The microarray workshop will allow the top minds in array-based cytogenomics to discuss the implications of a newly formed database that's likely to improve their work lives. It's also likely to help them and scientists around the world find and share genetic hiccups that cause health problems.
Microarrays are collections of microscopic DNA particles attached to a solid surface. They allow a huge amount of DNA information to be contained in a very small area. For this reason, they are often referred to as “DNA chips.” The small size of these DNA chips allows for increasingly sophisticated methods of DNA analysis.
While such analysis creates a wealth of information to guide current and future testing, that information is usually gathered by individual labs doing their own tests.
By combining results into a larger database, this information can be analyzed and cross-checked against similar findings for more efficient and effective results.
Just such a database has been created by an Asheville-based laboratory, and the information is being shared by a growing number of scientist seeking faster and more comprehensive access to microarray analyses.
Mission Health impact goes global
The database is the creation of the Cytogenomics Array Group (CAG), part of the Mission Healthcare Foundation, a nonprofit wing of western North Carolina's Mission Health. The CAG will co-host the event with the North Carolina Biotechnology Center.
The CAG has created a copy-number variant database, known as CAGdb. A copy-number variant is a genome, or the hereditary information that is contained in a person’s DNA, that contains an abnormal number of copies in one or more sections of that DNA.
This database allows members to share and access data related to abnormal microarray findings and guide their own analysis, based on past tests.
The CAGdb began as a data-sharing effort among labs in North Carolina and South Carolina. As the database grew, however, the group soon found new members wanting to join. The group now includes a growing number of prominent national, and even a few international, members of the cytogenomics community.
Growing participation in this database could have huge implications.
According to the CAGdb website, the database will facilitate “syndrome discovery efforts and make information on rare cases more broadly available.”
By creating and expanding a cache of data against which future arrays can be compared, the CAGdb will allow cytogenomists to more easily and readily identify rare microarray findings.
This could, in turn, allow scientists to identify and solve problems in genomic variation. These advances could lead to breakthroughs in a number of fields, including biotechnology.
While the possibilities are exciting, the CAG is meeting in Asheville to discuss more than just the growing database and how to interpret the information contained in it.
The Asheville workshop, which will focus on best practices for clinical cytogenomic microarrays, will also serve to familiarize current and new members of the CAG with effectively interpreting the variants of microarrays.
Participants will hear a number of speakers from the nation’s top universities, including Duke, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of Pennsylvania.
The workshop will be held Sunday and Monday, July 22 and 23, at the Renaissance Hotel in Asheville. For more information on the Cytogenomics Array Group Database, visit http://www.cagdb.org/.