It’s the kind of plot that makes great science.
There are genes that have been hiding in plain sight, undetected until now. They’ve gone unseen, that is, by short read sequencing. Today’s guest and his colleagues call them “camouflage genes,” and a couple in particular may play functional roles in Alzheimer’s disease.
Mark Ebbert is an Assistant Professor of Neuroscience at the Mayo Clinic where he is using long read sequencing technology and computational biology to study neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s and ALS.
“For years, the field has know that there are regions of the genome that remain dark when you are using short read sequencing data,” says Mark. "But up until recently, there had been little work characterizing how big the problem was. And as we were working on some studies on Alzheimer’s disease and ALS, we started to bump up to some genes that completely surprised me that they were dark, or what we now call camouflaged. It turns out that 26% of CR1 is camouflaged. I’ve been in Alzheimer’s research for seven years now, and in all that time I hadn’t noticed, and I’ve never heard anyone else mention that CR1 is camouflaged.”
Which leads us to ask, again, why wouldn’t all scientists doing discovery work use long read sequencing? What is the cost of missing an important gene?