The human genome? Got an app for that

Browse the human genome on an iPad, all 3 billion base pairs.
Written by Boonsri Dickinson, Contributing Editor

As our lifestyle becomes more mobile, it's not surprising that genetic information is now available at our fingertips. If you have an iPad, you can navigate the human genome as easily as you can map out your travel route on Google Maps. Researchers at the Center for Biomedical Informatics (CBMi) at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia created an app for the popular browser Genome Wowser, so you can search for a specific gene or browse through it at your leisure.

"We feel that Genome Wowser provides immediacy to the human genome," Peter White, director of CBMi, said in a statement. "With this app, researchers can now access genomic data from anywhere with minimal effort, and they can immediately explore the genome visually by using the intuitive screen touches and gestures that have made the iPad platform so powerful."

The app is an iteration of the original University of California Santa Cruz's Genome Browser that began in 2000. Currently, scientists update the website whenever new genetic data is discovered.

I downloaded the app through the iTunes store to give it a try. The app does what it claims to, but it could use a better user interface. It's hard to go back and forth. When navigating 3 billion base pairs, one is bound to get lost. I had to hit the main button to restart the app at times, which made me wonder why I would bother with the app if I could just access the same information through the original browser, as long as I had a WiFi connection.

While I had no immediate use for the access to genetic information, I can see why it could be useful at a conference. For instance, if a graduate student is listening to a paper about a genetic link, he can log onto his iPad and check out what other genes are next to it. He can turn to his neighbor and share the genetic information with him.

In the future, the app will include more species - mice, cats, chimpanzees and elephants to name a few.

via Popular Science

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