A team of scientists from Baylor College of Medicine recently publicized the results of their newest study that runs down the ideal procedures for the use of a novel computer application, Variant Association Tools, or VAT, programed to examine genetic sequence data to identify the central hereditary roots of certain attributes and illnesses. The report made use of the 1,000 Genomes project — a global effort to put together a comprehensive listing of genetic variation — for the program’s demonstration.
Dr. Suzanne Leal, a professor of molecular and human genetics at the college, as well as the Director of the Center for Statistical Genetics, led the study, which is currently available online in the American Journal of Human Genetics. Dr. Leal and her co-researcher’s findings will prove to be quite useful in the task of discovering the links between humans’ genes and diseases, especially links involving complex diseases and quantitative traits, which are defined as “the inheritance of a phenotypic characteristic that is attributable to two or more genes.”
According to Dr. Leal, investigating the genetic causes of these complex traits and diseases has been and still is a big challenge — one that needs specialized computer programs to pinpoint which genes cause which disease conditions. She said the task becomes even more complicated when researchers attempt to identify genetic mutations that have been associated with very rare attributes and diseases. This is why Dr. Leal believes the future of understanding genetics’ role in sickness lies in analysis tools similar to VAT.
Gao T. Wang of BCM along with Dr. Bo Peng of the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center worked with Dr. Leal in this research.
This is not the first time that Dr. Leal’s work into the genetic causes of diseases have made headlines. Last year, BioNew Texas published an article on her work on genetic causes of complex traits and diseases that helped shed light on autism, using a tool called the “transmission disequilibrium test.“