Scientists from ITMO University, the Federal Research and Clinical Centre of Physical-Chemical Medicine and MIPT have developed a software program enabling them to quickly compare sets of DNA of microorganisms living in different environments. The researchers have already suggested exactly how the new program could be applied in practice. Using the algorithm to compare the microflora of a healthy person with the microflora of a patient, specialists would be able to detect previously unknown pathogens and their strains, which can aid the development of personalized medicine.
The results of the study have been published in Bioinformatics.
Every person has a genome – a specific sequence of genes according to which an individual develops. However, any living organism contains another gene sequence that is called the metagenome.It is the total DNA content of the many different microorganisms that inhabit the same environment – bacteria, fungi, and viruses. The metagenome is often indicative of various diseases or predispositions to such diseases. Studying microbiota, i.e. the full range of microorganisms inhabiting different parts of the human body, has thereforea criticalrole in metagenomic research.
The software tool developed by the scientists and called MetaFast is able to conduct a rapid comparative analysis of large amounts of metagenomes. “In studying the intestinal microflora of patients, we may be able to detect microorganisms associated with a particular disease, such as diabetes, or a predisposition to the disease. This already forms a basis for applying personalized medicine techniques and developing new drugs. Using the results obtained with the software, biologists will be able to draw conclusions on how to further develop their research, because the algorithm enables them to study environments that we currently know nothing about,” says Vladimir Ulyantsev, lead developer of the algorithm and researcher at the Computer Technologies Laboratory at ITMO University.