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All in the Interpretation

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One of the big questions about all the genetic data that researchers have been amassing is: What does it all mean? If I have a certain gene variant, it may raise my risk for type 2 diabetes slightly. But then what does that risk really mean, especially when other genes, my behavior — eating poorly or exercising frequently — and my environment are factored in? It's just not known, though I should probably eat more healthily anyway.

The clinical interpretation of genomes is a challenge, but it is one that researchers are tackling, writes Tracy Vence in this month's cover story. While the value of interpreting a genome like mine — someone who is, thankfully, healthy — is controversial, there is more usefulness in studying the genomes of people with disease. By studying the genomes of people with Mendelian diseases or with cancer, researchers have been able to find likely causal variants. But to make such clinical interpretation of genomes more widespread — to other disease areas and to healthy people — better standards and quality control are needed, Tracy adds.

Elsewhere in the issue, Matthew Dublin takes a look at efforts using synthetic biology to bolster biofuel production. Researchers in academia and industry are turning to synthetic biology tools to make use of and improve systems innate to bacteria for biofuel production. Additionally, Matt writes, bacteria like E. coli are known to be scalable — they are already used in industrial processes — making mass-production of biofuels a bit easier.

And this month's Project Spotlight shines a light on the complexities involved in assembling transcriptomes of species that lack a reference genome. As Christie Rizk reports, there are a number of approaches that researchers may take. A new study from Université Montpellier's Nicolas Galtier and his colleagues indicates that combining two well-known methods may give the best results.

Finally, a correction. A feature story on public health genomics in the June issue of Genome Technology misspelled Bahar Taneri's last name. GT regrets the error.