Genetics Cloud: A tremendous aid to medical screening

Cloud computing can help in considerably reducing the time and effort put in by genetic researchers by storing and analyzing individual gene sequences at a much faster rate than what can be done locally on a system. Further these gene sequence information which is stored on the cloud can prove to be far more effective in delivering better research capabilities by being available to a wider research fraternity to base their findings and conclusions.

Genetic Screening

Genetic Screening has been a technology which has been prevalent in understanding some forms of cancer and chromosomal mutations for a few years now. Recently, there has been an influx of genetic screening tests available to the general public post the Supreme court ruling last year invalidating key patents on the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. Now many multi-gene tests are available to screen primarily three types of gene mutations:

  1. Carrier screens for recessive known diseases
  2. BRCA mutations tests
  3. Non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT) to detect chromosomal anomalies in fetuses from DNA in the maternal bloodstream

To understand the nature of data we are looking to analyze, some understanding about genes and sequences are a must. To give a basic idea, a gene is made up of DNA, which consists of protein pairs. The number of such protein pairs varies from one gene to another. But, they usually consist of a few hundred to over 2 million base pairs (bps). Each person has 2 copies of each gene and an anomaly in any of these genes causes diseases, or sometimes due to unknown reasons, there might be a change in the gene which can trigger of a disease in an otherwise normal person. Hence during the analysis for a disease, all associated genes are analyzed for a better understanding of the treatment mechanism to be implemented. On an average, each sequenced individual gene can run into many Mbs. One complete human genome takes about 1.6 Gb disk space. This data when it has to be shared between scientists or public gene databases for analyzes, proves to be a daunting task.

Performing these tests take anywhere from 1 to 3 months, due to the sheer amount of infrastructure required to store the large amount of data and analyze this data for mutations. Using the cloud will help hospitals and research units free up valuable IT in-house and use cloud infrastructure to scale up on requirement and also bring in faster results.

Analyze on the cloud

Sequencing the DNA is the easier part, which can be performed using various technical methods, such as when a laser light is used to sequence DNA in glass slides. But, after that maintaining this bulky data and analyzing it is the expensive part which rides up the cost of these tests.

The cloud can bring new computing power to researchers. Genetic sequencing can help in drug specificity and bring down time to treat in many cases of cancer. Computing powers offered in the cloud such as Amazon EC2, Microsoft Windows Azure have offerings wherein the data can be encrypted and used as in the case of cloud EMR solutions, hence successfully thwarting all security concerns.

Nalashaa extends support to research and academia

Nalashaa is experienced in working with healthcare providers and understand the sensitivity of data involved. We offer services which cater to the highest standards in security, assurance and integrity. Our data center services comprise of data center design, security audits, load balancing and virtualization.

Secure cloud computing access for academia and the research community will aid in building a strong value proposition for moving genetic sequencing and analysis to the cloud. The potential of such clouds include easing large-scale data integration, enabling repeatable and reproducible analyses, maximizing the scope for sharing, and harnessing collective intelligence for knowledge discovery.

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Aathira Nair

An engineer by education, foraying into a medley of activities - content, social media and marketing.
Aathira Nair

An engineer by education, foraying into a medley of activities - content, social media and marketing.

All stories by: Aathira Nair