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Genetics

The 10 most studied genes

One of the responsibilities of the National Library of Medicine (NLM) in the US is to classify scientific articles on the PubMed database. Since the 1980s, the NLM has been cataloging papers that provide information on the structure, function, and location of genes. Biomedical informatics expert Peter Kerpedjiev, a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard Medical School who specializes in the visualization of genomic data, extracted the information from this systematic survey and produced a list of the most studied human genes, in partnership with Nature online. Of around 20,000 protein-coding genes in the human genome, just 100 accounted for more than a quarter of the scientific articles covered by the study. Among the 10 most studied genes, which appeared in more than 40,000 papers, those associated with cancer or the immune system feature prominently. Gene TP53, which produces a tumor suppressor, has been cited in almost 8,500 articles and tops the ranking (see table). “The list was surprising,” Kerpedjiev told Nature. “Some genes were predictable; others were completely unexpected.”