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Computer Helps Msu Researchers ­nravel Plants' Secrets to Survival

By MS­ News

September 8, 2011

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Michigan State University scientists are using artificial intelligence to gain a better understanding of how plants cope with extreme environments.

The researchers studied the genome of the plant Arabidopsis thaliana, which contains more than 25,000 genes, and about 3,000 to 10,000 are used in response to just one particular stress. The team collaborated with computer scientists to help determine the combination of factors that have to occur to make the right genes switch on in precisely the right environment.

Plant biologist Shin-Han Shiu says the team used a cluster of computers because of the thousands of switches that essentially turn on and off the necessary genes. The computers simultaneously ran myriad switch combinations, which accelerated the research. "Suppose you have thousands and thousands of switches in front of you, and you want to know which combination will create the right kind of response in the plant," Shiu says. "Don't let humans do it. We rely on machines to find the combinations."

From MSU News
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