Sunday February 17, 2019

New DNA Tool to Predict People’s Height and Risk For Cancer

They put the algorithm to work, evaluating each participant's DNA and teaching the computer to pull out these distinct differences

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DNA
Heavy drinking can change your DNA: Study

Researchers have developed a new DNA tool that uses machine learning to accurately predict people’s height and assess their risk for serious illnesses such as heart disease and cancer.

The tool, or algorithm, predicts human traits such as height, bone density and even the level of education a person might achieve that is purely based on one’s genetic material. However, the applications may not stop there.

“While we have validated this tool for these three outcomes, we can now apply this method to predict other complex traits related to health risks such as heart disease, diabetes and breast cancer,” said lead author Stephen Hsu, from Michigan State University, US.

In the study, published in the journal Genetics, the researchers analysed the complete genetic makeup of nearly 5,00,000 adults using machine learning, where a computer learns from data.

The computer accurately predicted everyone’s height within roughly an inch, findings revealed.

DNA
DNA, Pixabay

“The algorithm looks at the genetic makeup and height of each person. The computer learns from each person and ultimately produces a predictor that can determine how tall they are from their genome alone,” Hsu said.

Importantly, while bone density and educational attainment predictors were not as precise, they were accurate enough to identify individuals who were at risk of having very low bone density with osteoporosis or were at risk of struggling in school.

They put the algorithm to work, evaluating each participant’s DNA and teaching the computer to pull out these distinct differences.

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“Our team believes this is the future of medicine. For the patient, a genomic test can be as simple as a cheek swab, with a cost of about $50,” Hsu said.

“Once we calculate the predictors for genetically-based diseases, early intervention can save billions of dollars in treatment costs, and more importantly, save lives,” he noted, adding “This is only the beginning.” (IANS)

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DNA Can Get Changed Due To Heavy Drinking: Study

In 2016, more than 3 million people died from the harmful use of alcohol. More than three quarters of alcohol-caused deaths were among men.

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DNA
Heavy drinking can change your DNA: Study

Are you a heavy drinker? Take note. Besides alcohol taking a toll on your health in many ways, it may also trigger a long-lasting genetic change resulting in an even greater craving for alcohol, researchers including one of Indian-origin have warned.

“We found that people who drink heavily may be changing their DNA in a way that makes them crave alcohol even more,” said Dipak K. Sarkar, Professor at Rutgers University in the US.

“This may help explain why alcoholism is such a powerful addiction, and may one day contribute to new ways to treat alcoholism or help prevent at-risk people from becoming addicted,” said Sarkar.

Hangovers might last longer than you think
Hangovers might also last longer than you think. Pixabay

For the study, researchers focused on two genes implicated in the control of drinking behaviour: PER2, which influences the body’s biological clock, and POMC, which regulates our stress-response system.

By comparing groups of moderate, binge and heavy drinkers, the team found that the two genes had changed in binge and heavy drinkers through an alcohol-influenced gene modification process called methylation, according to the findings, published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

In addition, the binge and heavy drinkers also showed reductions in gene expression, or the rate at which these genes create proteins. These changes increased with greater alcohol intake.

Alcohol is linked with 7 cancers.

Also, in another experiment, the drinkers viewed stress-related, neutral or alcohol-related images. They were also shown containers of beer and subsequently tasted beer, and their motivation to drink was evaluated.

Results showed that alcohol-fuelled changes in the genes of binge and heavy drinkers were associated with a greater desire for alcohol.

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The findings may eventually help researchers identify biomarkers — measurable indicators such as proteins or modified genes — that could predict an individual’s risk for binge or heavy drinking, Sarkar noted.

In 2016, more than 3 million people died from the harmful use of alcohol. More than three quarters of alcohol-caused deaths were among men. The harmful use of alcohol also caused 5.1 per cent of disease and injuries worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. (IANS)