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Harzan Palevo

Resumen biográfico "This is no longer possible with a notepad and ballpoint pen," says Professor André Reis. The researcher of the Max Delbrück Center (MDC) in Berlin-Buch is on the - computer-assisted - hunting for genes hair loss seborrheic dermatitis. Genes that are responsible for diseases such as asthma, psoriasis or epilepsy. The search for it, however, resembles a search for the pin in the haystack: For where are the genes that can lead to the disease in the approximately three billion building blocks of the human genome?

In its gene search, the research group of rice makes use of special sections of the genetic material, which create orientation like buoys in the sea: the "microsatellites". Microsatellites are short DNA fragments present throughout the genome, which differ from person to person and characterize gene domains that are associated with labeling tags. A special laboratory - the "microsatellite center" - was founded at the MDC in order to trace unknown disease genes with the help of these gene markers.

For this purpose, the scientists compare the microsatellites of some 200 families in which a sibling pair suffers from the same disease. The reason for this is the following: Since the genes of the parents always treatment for seborrheic keratosis mix again during reproduction, the genetic make-up of siblings is only 50% identical on average. However, in the case of siblings with the same disease, exactly those gene regions which contain disease genes must regularly coincide. Correspondingly, identical microsatellites should be found, which mark these suspicious gene regions.

"In asthmatics, we were able to identify several DNA regions that are associated with the disease using the microsatellite technique," says Reis. These sections of the genome could now be subjected to a fine analysis in order to decipher the alleged loss seborrheic dermatitis disease genes in detail. Also the genetic make-up of patients with psoriasis, epilepsy and neurodermatitis are investigated at the microsatellite center by suspicious gene regions.

"About 300,000 individual information is collected in the genetic analysis of 200 affected families," says Reis. In order to manage the data masses, the scientists use computer programs with sound names like "gene hunter" - "gene hunters".

For the genetic research, as André Reis has done, a separate scientific branch has become indispensable: bioinformatics. Bioinformatics will become a standard not only in basic science, but also in clinical studies ", says Professor Jens Reich, Head of the Department of Bioinformatics at the MDC. Especially since the 1990s, since the human genome has been systematically deciphered worldwide, "the department has exploded," says Reich.

Bioinformatics is not the only way to manage data masses. "With bioinformatics, new hypotheses can be developed, which can then be tested again in studies," explains Reich. Bioinformatics would, for example, develop programs to surf the gene databases accessible on the Internet. The computer-assisted comparison and the mathematical analysis of the information stored in it could then reveal completely new contexts.