Sunday, November 30, 2014

MuPIT, Ebola Edition: Johns Hopkins and UCSC Team Up to Fight Ebola on the Bioinformatics Front

Fig. 1: MuPPET, Ebola Edition

Last week, John Hopkins University's Karchin Lab released "MuPIT: Ebola Edition," and extension of their 3-Dimensional protein mutation visualizer MuPIT. The public availability of all information on the browser, coupled with the robustness of its software and versatility of interaction, means that we can expect this development to be a massive boon to the Ebola research community. Most Ebola treatments to date have been based on antibody development, and being able to anticipate changes in Ebola's protein structure due to mutation is key to maintaining an effective arsenal against Ebola. MuPIT allows scientists worldwide to do this – when applying this to Ebola, we open up the realm of drug development to many, many more scientists, and thus accelerate curative (and perhaps someday soon, prophylactic) treatment of this terrible disease.

What's more, MuPIT, Ebola Edition was designed to integrate with the UCSC Ebola Genome Browser, allowing researchers to make direct correlations between genomic data and said data's manifestation in the structural/physical world. Researchers can now interpret the functional implications of mutations in the Ebola genome, and examine on a structural level how they might evolve over time.

With the advent of bioinformatics, the emergence of big data, the ability to sequence virtually any genome at a constantly plunging cost, and the ability to cross-examine all of the above data through online sources such as MuPIT and the Ebola Genome Browser, the world of disease research has been continually revolutionized, and with every revolution, this world has become more integrated, more connected, more encompassing. While one or two decades ago the concept of researchers collaborating on a massive scale worldwide, in realtime, on a given problem would have seemed absurd, now this is becoming commonplace. The gestalt implication of this is the emergence of an analytic hive mind, capable of solving problems that its individual units would find impossible. To quote a particular association of bow-tied comedians... "YAY, SCIENCE!!!"


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