New genomics research enhances many areas

May 13, 2011

Last year, the UNT Health Science Center added another dimension to its world-renowned Center for Human Identification when it created the Institute for Investigative Genetics. In addition to the Center for Human Identification, the new institute includes the Center for Biosafety and Biosecurity, and the Center for Computational Genomics (CCG), led by Ranajit Chakraborty, PhD, professor of Forensic and Investigative Genetics.

The CCG enriches the research at the Health Science Center in many ways, as its researchers work side by side on statistical genetics, bioinformatics and biostatistics for biomedical and public health research. By applying genomic data in biomedical fields, the center provides training, research and services to improve the quality of life.

Recently evolved genomic tools can be used to understand resistance to drug responses and risks of specific environmental and lifestyle insults that can be influenced by genetic make-up. Research into these genetic effects supports the concept of individualized medicine, where a patient is treated based on genetic traits, expectations and proven reactions.

As part of his research, Chakraborty works with Roberto Cardarelli, DO (’01), and Bandana Chakraborty, DrPH, at the Health Science Center’s Primary Care Research Institute to determine indicators of chronic health effects beyond genetics. In collaboration with the Osteopathic Research Center (ORC) and John Licciardone, DO, executive director of the ORC, Chakraborty is involved in researching low back pain and the role that genetics may play in treatment success. These genetic effects are called biomarkers and may be important to the effectiveness of many different treatments.

Chakraborty and his team also may find themselves analyzing familial DNA within state databases of criminal offenders. For example, Luther Franklin was identified as the Grim Sleeper murderer as the result of a familial relationship determined when his son Chris Franklin’s DNA was entered into the offender database following a felony weapons charge.

His future research includes the possibility of matching highly heritable traits in genetic markers against eyewitness testimony. In such a situation, DNA markers can determine highly heritable traits that can then be compared to eyewitness accounts and composite drawings. With new tools and a more robust database of offenders, Chakraborty hopes to prevent false accusations and remove violent criminals from the street as soon as possible.

Diana Cervantes. Assistant Professor Biostatistics & Epidemiology
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