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The Stealthy Genome

While encryption approaches can make personal genomic data secure, they also tend to render it unusable for research, but as Science Now reports, a new method called homomorphic encryption may enable genomic data to stay private and still be usable for researchers. The encryption method was presented at the 2014 American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting. (AAAS publishes Science Now.)

The approach, Science Now notes, is enabled by lattice-based cryptography, a genometry-based encryption method. Homomorphic encryption lets computers analyze and return encrypted data, all without actually decoding the data. Kristin Lauter, a cryptologist at Microsoft Research, tells Science Now that it's like a jeweler working with a brick of gold that's locked in a safe by using gloves embedded in the side of the box.

The drawback, though, is a longer computation time, though researchers are tweaking the approach to increase speed.

Sage Bionetwork's John Wilbanks notes, though, that it's impossible to keep genetic data fully secure. "In 50 years the cost of genome sequencing is expected to be very low," he says. "If there's a copy of your genome out there that's heavily encrypted, it would just be better for me to shake hands with you and take some of your genetic material."

The Scan

Polygenic Risk Score to Predict Preeclampsia, Gestational Hypertension in Pregnant Women

Researchers in Nature Medicine provide new mechanistic insights into the development of hypertensive disorders of pregnancy, which may help develop therapeutics.

New Oral Nanomedicine Strategy Targets Gut-Brain Axis to Treat IBD

A new paper in Science Advances describes a platform to design polyphenol-armored oral medicines that are effective at treating inflammatory bowel disease.

Phylogenetic Data Enables New Floristic Map

Researchers in Nature Communications use angiosperm phylogenetic data to refine the floristic regions of the world.

Machine Learning Helps ID Molecular Mechanisms of Pancreatic Islet Beta Cell Subtypes in Type 2 Diabetes

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