First genetic data on ash dieback published online to speed up a cure

Published 20th Dec 2012

UK scientists have unveiled the first genetic data on ash dieback over the internet in a bid to unite expert analysis from all over the world.

The Sainsbury Laboratory and John Innes Centre went online with the first so-called RNA-sequence data on the fungus that triggered the disease epidemic.

The team hopes experts from around the globe will tap into the site and start to analyse data immediately to speed up the process of discovery. They also want to stimulate live peer review of analysis to produce more accurate findings more quickly.

This form of online teamwork was used to brainstorm expertise during last year’s E. coli epidemic in Germany. The system attributes and tracks work from scientists, who normally withhold sequence data until further analysis and formal publication.

"Bringing together knowledge and data through technologically-oriented social media is one of the most vital steps in beginning to understand this outbreak," said Sainsbury Laboratory scientist Dr Dan MacLean.

Lab head Professor Sophien Kamoun said: "The tiny amount of data we have so far is already suggesting interesting insights and we want others to start poring over it straight away."

The team took cuttings of infected ash in Ashwellthorpe wood in Norfolk, where the fungus was first identified in the natural environment in the UK. They sampled pith from the twig, extracted Ribonucleic acid, called RNA and sequenced it.

Scientists want counterparts from around the world to match it against existing sequences to find out pinpoint how the fungus causes disease, where it originated from, how it spread to the UK and how different strains are related.

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