Bioinformatics

or is it just an idea that's ahead of the curve? Last week, I was stunned to discover at least 31 papers in an NCBI Gene database entry that were in the entry for the wrong gene. I wrote about this here, here, here, and ... Read more
It's pretty common these days to pick up an issue of Science or Nature and see people ranting about GenBank (1). Many of the rants are triggered, at least in part, by a wide-spread misunderstanding of what GenBank is and how it works. Perhaps this can be solved through education, but I don't think that's likely. People from the NCBI can explain over and over again that some of the sequence databases in GenBank are meant to be an archival resource (2), and define the term "archive," but that's not going to help. Confusion about database content and oversight is widespread in this ... Read more
In its simplest sense, we imagine that learning occurs through a series of positive and negative rewards. Some actions lead to pleasure, others to pain, and it seems reasonable to expect that people will repeat the actions with pleasurable results and avoid those that ended in pain. Yet, we all know people who aren't deterred by the idea of punishment. We all know people who never seem to learn. Could there be a physical reason, hidden in their genes? In December 2007, Science published a study by Klein et. al. (1) where they asked if a specific genotype at a location ... Read more
Hey students: if you are looking for a summer internship in marine metagenomics and you can get your application together before June 16th, Jonathan Eisen posted information about an open position on his blog. It also looks like he's looking for post-docs (see the side bar on the right of this page.)Read more
In part I, I wrote about my first semester of teaching on-line and talked about our challenges with technology. Blackboard had a database corruption event during finals week and I had all kinds of struggles with the Windows version of Microsoft Excel. Mike wrote and asked if I thought students should be working more with non-Microsoft software and what I thought the challenges would be in doing so. I can answer with a totally unqualified "it depends." ... Read more
I got my copy of "A short guide to the human genome" by Stewart Scherer today from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press (2008, ISBN 978-087969791-4). Usually, I would wait until after I've read a book to write a review, but this book doesn't require that kind of study. As soon I skimmed through it and read some of the questions and answers, I knew this would be the kind of quick reference that I would like to have sitting above my desk. Scherer has compiled a wonderful text that not only answers many of the kinds of questions that I can think to ask about the human ... Read more
A potential link between lung cancer and human papilloma virus may make parents even more glad about vaccinating their children with Gardasil®. Not only are the children protected against viruses that commonly cause cervical cancer, they may be protected against some forms of lung cancer as well. The April 25th version of Nature News reports (1) that two viruses, HPV (Human papilloma virus) and measles virus, have been found in lung tumors. From Nature News:
Samuel Ariad of the Soroka Medical Center in Beer Sheva, Israel, and his colleagues began by analyzing ... Read more
Over 2600 genetic diseases have been found where a change in a single gene is linked to the disease. One of the questions we might ask is how those mutations change the shape and possibly the function of a protein? If the structures of the mutant and wild type (normal) proteins have been solved, NCBI has a program called VAST that can be used to align those structures. I have an example here where you can see how a single amino acid change makes influenza resistant to Tamiflu®. This 4 minute movie below shows ... Read more
One of my favorite web 2.0 technologies is the webinar. When you work at a company and not a University, with constant seminars, it gets a bit harder to hop on a bus and travel across town to learn about new things. Webinars are a good way to fill that gap. I grab my coffee cup, put on my headphones, and I get to listen to someone tell me about their work for an hour and show slides over the web. It's nice. Our company is even going to be involved in two webinars in the next two months. One of us is giving an Illumina webinar tomorrow ... Read more
In the class that I'm teaching, we found that several PCR products, amplified from the 16S ribosomal RNA genes from bacterial isolates, contain a mixed base in one or more positions. We picked samples where the mixed bases were located in high quality regions of the sequence (Q >40), and determined that the mixed bases mostly likely come from different ribosomal RNA genes. Many species of bacteria have multiple copies of 16S ribosomal RNA genes and the copies can differ from each other within a single genome and between genomes. Now, in one of our last projects we are determining where ... Read more

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