The city of Dubai wants to get to know its three million residents well—you might even say better than they know themselves. As part of a project called Dubai 10X Initiative, the Dubai Health Authority (DHA) plans to gather the DNA of each of its inhabitants with the stated goal of ending disease in its population. By creating a giant database of genetic disorders in Dubai’s population, the city hopes that researchers can develop customized treatments.
The project has three phases: First, a database will be created to build the necessary infrastructure for large-scale whole-genome sequencing. Next, artificial intelligence will accomplish the complex sequence analysis. According to the DHA, it will analyze longitudinal data to predict risks associated with genetic illnesses. The third phase will develop precision medicine in collaboration with pharmaceutical companies and academia to design treatments. The hope is that such a plan will ultimately eradicate genetic diseases, or at least predict them, so that doctors can work with patients to develop treatment and prevention plans. The ultimate goal, says the DHA, is to create a “happy and healthy society.”
An Australian study recently plunged into the world of dark matter, using new technology to identify a multitude of microbial species. As a result, scientists have now added new 20 phyla to the tree of life.
Expanding the tree of life
Researchers at the University of Queensland used advances in gene sequencing technology and mathematics to study microbial genomes obtained straight from environmental samples, without the necessity of cultivation in the lab. The new technology is called metagenomics, whereby researchers gather specimens of all the genetic material—for instance, in a sample of soil, ocean water or baboon feces—and then piece them together using computational models to identify the microorganisms they represent.
An international group of about 150 scientists met in May behind closed doors to discuss an unofficial follow-up to the Human Genome Project. This time, however, instead of mapping all the genes in human DNA, the scientists want to create one from scratch.
How human are you? New research shows that more than 8% of our genetic makeup isn’t our own: it comes from viruses. Some of that viral DNA may have been passed down from our ancestors for at least 670,000 years.