March 05, 2012, 5:59 PM — Free app promises to identify if mutation will lead to trouble
If you spent a lot of time watching the X-Men movie marathon on cable this weekend, you may find it was time wasted – at least when it comes to identifying genetic mutations and mutants likely to cause trouble in the future.
Researchers at Brown University have posted a Web-based application called Spliceman that is designed to identify genetic mutations likely to disrupt the process of replicating segments of genetic material and splicing them into strings of messengerRNA that produce proteins required for other critical processes in the human body.
Sample: Punk. Problem with authority. Makes and throws fire but can't start it without a Zippo? Bad attitude? Trouble? Yes.
DNA provides the patterns and orders to splice mRNA strings into combinations that will produce specific proteins.
As many as a third of the disease-causing mutations in the Human Genome Mutation Database create disease by interrupting the splicing process or forcing it to create errors.
Sample: Blue man, no group. Bad sideburns, no fist-claws. Prissy baritone voice, sounds like it's sending a glass of water back to the kitchen for being insufficiently je ne se qua. Trouble? No. Annoying? Yes
Spliceman works by identifying DNA "words," strings of letters identified as points on the DNA helix, noting how far it is from one of 20 or so splice sites on the DNA strand and how likely it would be to create erroneous splices or interrupt the splicing of other strands.
It works with the genomes of 11 animals – including chimpanzees, monkeys, mice, rats, dogs, chickens, zebra fish and humans (though not super-powerful psychics, laser-eyed nerds or shape-shifters who disguise themselves as less attractive organisms.