Combining DNA & MicroRNA Data For The Best Of Both Worlds

Researchers in Japan have established a method that integrates microRNA and genome-wide association study data to help identify the root causes of disease.

AsianScientist (Nov. 16, 2018) – To obtain a comprehensive view of diseases, researchers at Osaka University, Japan, have developed an analytical approach that integrates information from microRNAs (miRNAs) and genome-wide association studies (GWAS). They published their findings in Nucleic Acids Research.

Technological advances have allowed scientists to obtain massive amounts of data on different information-carrying molecules in cells and tissues, such as DNA, proteins and various forms of RNA. However, to date, it has been difficult to perform integrated analyses of such information to identify the molecules and processes involved in the development of particular diseases.

In this study, scientists led by Dr. Saori Sakaue of Osaka University have integrated information about miRNAs—small regulatory molecules that modulate gene expression—and data from GWAS studies, which examine genetic variants in populations, to better identify disease mechanisms. They called their method MIGWAS.

“It has been difficult to obtain convincing data about the effects of miRNAs as their short length means that they are encoded by only a very small part of the genome,” said Sakaue. “Our MIGWAS approach linking findings from genome-wide association studies and miRNA-target networks helps to overcome this.”

The team attempted to validate their approach using rheumatoid arthritis (RA) data, analyzing single-nucleotide polymorphisms from nearly 20,000 RA cases and over 60,000 corresponding controls, with and without MIGWAS. The two analytical methods corroborated each other, revealing four miRNAs linked to RA, one of which was highly expressed in RA patients.

“The analytical power of our approach shows its potential for finding new networks of miRNAs and their target genes linked to traits and diseases, in a tissue-specific way,” said corresponding author Professor Yukinori Okada of Osaka University. “This should make it easier to find new targets that we can focus on for developing therapeutic strategies for a wide range of diseases.”

The article can be found at: Sakaue et al. (2018) Integration of Genetics and miRNA–target Gene Network Identified Disease Biology Implicated in Tissue Specificity.


Source: Osaka University; Photo: Pexels.
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