Visualizing Genomic Data

Contributed by Dr. DJ Bandoy, DVM

Next-generation sequencing opened the floodgates of biological information. However, the torrential amount of data that is now becoming the challenge itself from data storage to analytical tools. This gap is now more pronounced with visualizing millions of data points as to what is meaningful and intuitive in data analysis. Phylogenetic trees are the classical way to visualize genomic differences but fail to capture key interactions in microbial species such as gene exchange and hybrids in higher order species. The tree of life, might not even be a tree, but a tangled web of gains and losses of modular genomic components. One way to approach this technical problem is to explore the genome visually, using Hilbert curves. Hilbert curves are continuous fractal space-filling curves and were put in the spotlight with the science paper titled Comprehensive Mapping of Long-Range Interactions Reveals Folding Principles of the Human Genome. Anders published a paper with an accompanying software HilbertVis for genome data visualization using Hilbert curve. A more recent iteration of genome visualization using Hilbert curve is Meander, developed by Pavlopoulos. Visually presenting genomic data is more intuitive and pattern recognition is easier to accomplished.

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