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Open source DNA
Date:8/31/2009

software that implements the formula, the National Institutes of Health and similar institutes around the world can distribute important research data, but keep individual identities private.

"We've been able to determine how much of the DNA information one can reveal without compromising a person's identity," says Dr. Halperin. "This means the substantial effort invested in collecting this data will not have been in vain."

Why is this information so important? Genome association studies can find links in our genetic code for conditions like autism and predispositions for cancer. Armed with this information, individuals can avoid environmental influences that might bring on disease, and scientists can develop new gene-based diagnosis and treatment tools.

A new track for government policymakers

Examining SNP positions in our genetic code, Dr. Halperin and his colleagues demonstrated the statistical improbabilities of identifying individuals even when their complete genetic sequence is known. "We showed that even when SNPs across the entire genome are collected from several thousand people, using our solution the ability to detect the presence of any given individual is extremely limited," he says.

Dr. Halperin hopes his research will reverse the NIH policy, and he will provide access to the software so that researchers can use it to decide which genetic information can be safely loaded into a public database. He also hopes it will quell raging debates about DNA usage and privacy issues.

The Tel Aviv University-Berkeley research was done while Dr. Halperin was working with the International Computer Science Institute (ICSI), a non-profit research institute with close relations to the University of California (UC) and Tel Aviv University. Other coauthors of the study include Sriram Sankararaman, and Prof. Michael Jordan from UC, and Dr. Guillaume Obozinski from Willow, a joint research team between
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Contact: George Hunka
ghunka@aftau.org
212-742-9070
American Friends of Tel Aviv University
Source:Eurekalert  

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