New resource that categorises genes essential for supporting life could be used to identify rare disease mutations
Researchers at EMBL’s European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI) and Queen Mary University of London have led a study to categorise which genes are essential for supporting life. The results from this study could be a useful new resource to help researchers identify mutations responsible for rare childhood diseases.
Identifying which genes are linked to a rare disease is one of the most difficult challenges geneticists face. The low prevalence of these diseases within the population makes it difficult to research and fully understand their causes. However, huge advances in the diagnosis of rare diseases are now being made thanks to innovations in sequencing technology.
“Loss of gene function is often referred to as a binary concept; lethal or viable,” says Violeta Muñoz-Fuentes, Biologist, Mouse Informatics at EMBL-EBI. “In this study we show that gene essentiality is more of a spectrum ranging from cellular lethal, developmental lethal, subviable, viable with a visible phenotype, and viable without a visible phenotype.”
The scientists define these categories for 3819 genes to create an open access database that benefits other researchers and provide insight for clinical applications.
Cellular lethal: genes essential for cell viability Developmental lethal: genes essential for organism development Viable: organisms fully develop Subviable: organism survival is less than expected
Diagnosing rare disorders
Advances in whole genome sequencing (WGS) are changing the way we research and diagnose rare genetic diseases. However, the majority of rare disease patients remain undiagnosed due to a lack of detection or because a previously unknown gene is disrupted. This study furthers our understanding of rare disease genes by providing clinicians and researchers with an open access resource, which identifies high-quality candidates for rare disease mutations.
This image is a composite of lateral pentascolopidial organs, a wing imaginal disc pouch, and an epithelial wound in a Drosophila larva. The organs are arranged here like eyelashes. Cells surrounding an epidermal wound appear as the iris and pupil of this artistic eye.