Tel Aviv scientists develop microRNA software

Researchers at the Tel Aviv University in Israel have developed software to analyse microRNAs, the cellular molecules that regulate our genetic code, giving us potentially invaluable insight into how genes affect our lives and how we can better combat genetic disease.

Roy Ronen and a team of scientists led by Dr. Noam Shomrom at the Sackler Faculty of Medicine in Tel Aviv University developed the software, called miRNAkey. The program searches for microRNA patterns in healthy and diseased tissues, granting the scientists a deeper understanding of how we work and what differentiates, on the genetic level, health from disease.

The model of analysis employed in this research is called “deep sequencing”, which is used to determine the sequence and expression of cellular DNA or RNA. The ability to gather and analyse this data, which effectively amounts to a full map of the human body on a microscopic level, has very positive benefits to our race as a whole, as it allows biologists more insight into our genetics and how genetic malfunctions, or disease, can occur.

The miRNAkey software is the first of its kind, combining the methods scientists have developed to analyse microRNAs with the computational and analytical power of computers, potentially multiplying the volume of our results and the pace at which we can get them.

Dr. Shomron explained that identification of microRNAs allows scientists to manipulate them, giving an example of potentially manipulation malignant tumours. Previous research among the team has showed that manipulation of the microRNAs in maligant cancer resulted in a significant slowdown in the growth of the tumour. While studies are still in their early stages, this software is an essential aspect of further research into the abolishment of disease. 

The software is detailed in depth in the latest issue of science journal Bioinformatics.