How researchers are using AI, fruit flies to make major biological breakthroughs
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KCTV) - Artificial intelligence is taking the world to a new era at the Stowers Institute for Medical Research.
AI is making major breakthroughs in biology that have stumped researchers for decades.
Kaelen Brennan, a pre-doctoral researcher at Stowers, is studying fruit fly embryos.
“It’s very well studied which means there’s a lot of background information that we can use in our research,” said Brennan.
He’s studying the bug to see how it develops.
“So, for example — put an arm here, put the head here — these are all patterns you have to form relatively quickly during development,” said Brennan.
This is a puzzle investigator Julia Zeitlinger has been trying to solve for some 20 years.
“We have a sense of what’s encoded, but we have very little knowledge to retrieve that,” she said.
Zeitlinger and her team are working to extract the information, which would normally take decades to accomplish with experiments. Now, thanks to artificial intelligence, it’s as if someone hit the fast-forward button and results are now down to minutes if not seconds.
“So now we can really start to connect how this is really encoded in the sequence,” said Zeitlinger.
The Neural Network (AI) paints a bigger and clearer picture, which allows scientists to study multiple components of DNA at once, versus just the single one in the past.
“In order to look at what we call genome-wide, everything all at once, that’s really hard for a human because that’s tons of patterns all over the place,” said Brennan.
The AI also helps to provide insight into how mutations happen.
“So let’s say an AI model well what happens if we change that g to a t, does that have an effect,” said Brennan.
“So we’re training the neural network to predict the data we already have and so it’s basically making that connection from sequence to pattern,” said Zeitlinger.
By connecting fly to human, scientists at Stowers can learn more about how we can live healthier — and perhaps longer — lives.
“There’s a lot of information about our susceptibilities to diseases that could be read so it could motivate us to ear healthier, exercise,” said Zeitlinger.
Thanks to artificial intelligence, researchers are learning faster about the language of genes every day which could open the door the possible cures in the future.
“So for example, if we can sequence cancer directly. We know more about the mutations. Those mutations can tell us a lot about what’s happening and what kind of treatment might be successful,” said Zeitlinger.
“I think it will have a transformative effect not just in fundamental research, but also in human health and disease,” said Brennan.
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