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Large-scale investigation of the reasons why potentially important genes are ignored

Biomedical research is one of the largest areas of present-day science and embeds the hope and potential to improve the lives of the general public. In order to understand how individual scientists choose individual research questions, Stoeger et al. studied why certain genes are well studied but others are not. While it has been previously observed that most research on human genes only concentrates on approximately 2,000 of the 19,000 genes of the human genome, the reasons for this ignorance are largely unknown. The authors systematically tested explanations for this observation, finding that biomedical research is primarily guided by a handful of generic chemical and biological characteristics of genes, which facilitated experimentation during the 1980s and 1990s, rather than by the physiological importance of individual genes or their relevance to human disease. The image shows "hot" and "cold" regions of biology; genes (dots) are mapped according to generic chemical and biological characteristics. Blue indicates cold regions, where genes are studied less frequently than anticipated under the assumption that every gene would be studied to the same extent.

Image Credit: Thomas Stoeger