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The mathematics of the genes

Researchers at the School of Engineering and Computer Science at the Hebrew University have developed a new mathematical method for identifying the protection and control methods of the body's cells. The research is published tonight in the prestigious journal Nature Genetics

Tal Eitan, YNET

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The researchers of the School of Engineering and Computer Science of the Hebrew University publish tonight (Sunday, 12/5/03) the results of an innovative study dealing with the systematic identification of control mechanisms for intracellular processes. The research was carried out by the computational biology group under the direction of Dr. Nir Friedman, in collaboration with biologists and researchers from the field of computer science from Stanford University and Tel Aviv University.

"This research is a significant step towards automatic identification of the processes and control mechanisms in the cell with the help of computational methods," says Dr. Friedman. "I hope that the research will lead to discoveries that will accelerate the development of drugs for diseases caused by damage to the cell's control mechanisms, such as cancer, which is characterized by uncontrolled cell division.

The results of the study constitute a leap forward in the analysis of scientific data at the level of the entire genome. The researchers collaborate with biologists in the study of lung cancer and multiple sclerosis, and estimate that thanks to the new computational method it will be possible to identify the defective control mechanisms in this type of disease, and thus find medicines and solutions that will help deal with the disease.

The research is based on a relatively new scientific field that is gaining great popularity in which many hopes are pinned - computational biology (bioinformatics). This field is a mix of the subjects of computational sciences - mathematics, statistics and computers, with medical sciences, biology and genetics. The recently completed Human Genome Project is an example of scientific research in this field, and involved various computational methods and data analysis.

"This innovative field gained a lot of momentum in the coming decade, due to the development of several technologies for biological research that perform experimental measurements on a large scale and that the mass of data they provide must be analyzed on a computer," says Dr. Friedman. "It should be made clear that manual analysis cannot handle a huge amount of data, therefore an advanced and complex calculation tool is needed."

The new method allows researchers to locate the defense mechanisms and activity of the cells in the body, using different mathematical methods. The researchers built a computational system that processes information transferred to it, and derives from it legalities and conclusions regarding the methods of operation of the cells. The computer automatically labels the function of each control gene, both in terms of the processes for which it is responsible and in terms of the conditions in which it operates.
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