Stanford researcher advocates far-reaching microarray data exchange

DENVER, Co- Gene microarrays have become an increasingly important tool in biomedical research, allowing scientists to see complex patterns of gene expression inside particular cells. The result is a better understanding of different types of cancer and other diseases.

But as the number of gene microarrays performed in experiments has multiplied, the task of storing, organizing and analyzing the resulting data has become increasingly daunting. This has spurred the development of microarray databases - sophisticated repositories that not only give researchers a way to safely store their data, but also provide tools to analyze it.

Gavin Sherlock, PhD, director of the Stanford Microarray Database at Stanford University Medical Center, will discuss the history of gene microarray databases and the current movement - in which he is active - to establish standards for the open publication and exchange of microarray data. His presentation will take place Saturday during the Databases and Data Sharing program at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Denver.

When gene microarray experiments were first performed in 1995, researchers used relatively few samples and there were fewer genes represented on the microarrays. Scientists could therefore analyze the resulting data using primitive spreadsheets and custom-written, one-time scripts. But as experiments began to involve more microarrays, "researchers were dealing with massive amounts of data and it became obvious that they needed a more sophisticated way to organize it," Sherlock said. Responding to this need, a group of genetics researchers at Stanford developed the first gene microarray database in 1997.

Since then, a crop of such databases has sprung up, including about a dozen commercially run databases and a handful of open-source databases developed at academic institutions.

These databases are becoming even more important, Sherlock expl

Contact: Sara Selis
Stanford University Medical Center

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