Google's new AI breakthrough is a 'big step forward' to creating 'life-saving treatments'

Google's AI firm has designed an artificial intelligence system to detect abnormal genetic mutations that can lead to diseases emerging.

1 minute & 50 seconds read time

Google DeepMind has created a new AI system that is capable of detecting genetic mutations that may lead to diseases.

Google's new AI breakthrough is a 'big step forward' to creating 'life-saving treatments' 4445

A new study published in the journal Science details a new AI model called AlphaMissense, which is an improvement on the AI model AlphaFold that DeepMind announced it achieved in 2020. As you can probably imagine, this AI model has been "fine-tuned" with genetic data from humans and primates, giving it its ability to detect what is called "missense" mutations, which are mutations that occur within a single letter of the DNA code.

Notably, these missense mutations can lead to illnesses such as cell anemia, cystic fibrosis, and cancer, but currently, levels of genetic disease hunters have only identified 0.1 percent of missense genes as good or bad. DeepMind's AI tool has now identified 71 million missense mutations, and of those has been able to classify 89% of the total variants as "either likely benign or likely pathogenic." This AI data has been released to the wider public in an effort to assist physicians around the world.

However, not everyone is ecstatic about Google's recent announcement, with Ben Lehner, a senior group leader in human genetics at the UK's Wellcome Sanger Institute, said to The Guardian, "One concern about the DeepMind model is that it is extremely complicated. A model like this may turn out to be more complicated than the biology it is trying to predict. It's humbling to realize that we may never be able to understand how these models actually work. Is this a problem?"

He added, "It may not be for some applications, but will doctors be comfortable making decisions about patients that they don't understand and can't explain?"

Despite this criticism, Lehner recognized what Google has achieved with this technology, which is identifying missense gene mutations. The DeepMind model "does a good job of predicting what is broken," and "knowing what is broken is a good first step." You "also need to know how something is broken if you want to fix it."

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Jak joined the TweakTown team in 2017 and has since reviewed 100s of new tech products and kept us informed daily on the latest science, space, and artificial intelligence news. Jak's love for science, space, and technology, and, more specifically, PC gaming, began at 10 years old. It was the day his dad showed him how to play Age of Empires on an old Compaq PC. Ever since that day, Jak fell in love with games and the progression of the technology industry in all its forms. Instead of typical FPS, Jak holds a very special spot in his heart for RTS games.

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