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Crowdsourcing to kickstart comeback from ash dieback
Date:12/13/2012

On Friday scientists from The Sainsbury Laboratory and the John Innes Centre will publish the first RNA sequence data on the ash dieback fungus causing an epidemic of disease.

They will release the data via a website to a system designed for "social coding" of software. The system, called GitHub, was also used to crowdsource expertise during the 2011 E. coli epidemic in Germany.

Experts from around the world will be able to access the RNA sequence and start to analyse it immediately, speeding up the process of discovery. It will also allow live peer review of analysis, helping produce more accurate findings more quickly.

"Bringing together knowledge and data through technologically-oriented social media is one of the most vital steps in beginning to understand this outbreak," said Dr Dan MacLean of The Sainsbury Laboratory, a research centre focused on the science of plant-microbe interactions.

"The tiny amount of data we have so far is already suggesting interesting insights and we want others to start poring over it straight away," said Professor Sophien Kamoun, head of The Sainsbury Laboratory.

Drs Diane Saunders and Kentaro Yoshida from The Sainsbury Laboratory took cuttings of infected ash in Ashwellthorpe wood in Norfolk, where the fungus was first identified in the natural environment in the UK. They sampled pith from the twig, extracted RNA and sequenced it.

The sequence data is a mixture of both ash and fungus so one of the first jobs through the crowdsourcing exercise will be to search it against existing sequence databases and sort it out. They have already identified a sizeable proportion of fungal RNA, some of which appears to code for toxin proteins.

"By looking at what genes are expressed at this time of year when the fungus is active in the woody tissue of ash, we might be able to home in on genes that enable it to spread so rapidly," said Professor Allan Downie from the Jo
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Contact: Zoe Dunford
zoe.dunford@nbi.ac.uk
07-768-164-185
Norwich BioScience Institutes
Source:Eurekalert

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