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Net Journal 7

A wider and more diverse world of genomes:Closing in on the mystery of evolution by making full use of state-of-the-art analysis technologies

Dr. Koyanagi

Kanako Koyanagi, Doctor of Science,
Associate Professor of the Graduate School of Information Science and Technology, Hokkaido University,
Division of Bioengineering and Bioinformatics’s Research Group of Bioinformatics

Profile:

Associate Professor Koyanagi finished her doctoral program at Kyoto University Graduate School of Science. She became involved in the construction of an integrated human gene database at the Japan Biological Information Research Center in 2001 and became part of an international joint research project (H-Invitational) aimed at constructing an integrated database of human genes in 2002. In the project she conducted comparisons of human full-length cDNAs and genome sequences, performed analysis, and organized genetic information. She carried out annotation of approximately 40,000 full-length cDNAs in collaboration with researchers from Japan and abroad. After working as Assistant Professor at the Nara Institute of Science and Technology in 2003, she joined Hokkaido University Graduate School of Information Science and Technology as Associate Professor in 2004. Currently, she is working on the elucidation of the evolution of genetic information in humans, viruses, and other organisms through computer analysis of their genomes, among other research topics.

Dramatic expansion of research field and application scope through innovations in technology

---- What kinds of research are conducted in the field of genome research today?

Dr. Koyanagi: Genome refers to the total genetic information (DNA) found in a cell of a living organism. The human genome is made up of around three billion nucleotides (of four base types, namely, adenine (A), guanine (G), cytosine (C), and thymine (T)) that include approximately 22,000 genes. The sequencing of the entire human genome, which was a huge project involving research institutions around the world and required many years and several billions of dollars in costs, was completed in 2003. Since then, rapid advances in technological innovation have taken place, such that human genomes can now be sequenced in a matter of days and costs of only a few thousand dollars.

With the ease by which genomes can now be sequenced, the scope and applications of genome research have substantially expanded. The function of human genes in the human body and the particular timing are gradually becoming clear. It is also now possible to sequence a person’s individual genome and determine an individual’s predisposition to particular diseases based on genetic information.

However, at this point, we have only come to elucidate the functions and roles of around half of all human genes, meaning that we still have a lot of ground to cover. The ability to overcome technical barriers to the study of human genomes and to analyze them at significantly lower cost and shorter time has hastened the speed of research and led to many new discoveries, and at the same time brought to the fore many new questions and topics. The body of knowledge about genomes is indeed growing at an explosive pace.

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