'Deep learning' computers cast new light on DNA

Canadian researchers' approach may answer stubborn questions about autism and some cancers

Featured in CBC.ca, December 18, 2014

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Researchers at the University of Toronto have developed a new way to read the human genome, which could answer stubborn questions about how flaws in DNA lead to disease.

The team, led by Prof. Brendan Frey, has used "deep learning" computer technology to read the three billion characters that represent the genome, which was first sequenced in 2003. The computers then determine which proteins, the building blocks of cells, will be produced by that DNA. 

It is thought to be the first application of deep learning to genetics. The study, by the almost entirely Canadian team of researchers, appeared Thursday in the journal Science.