Iowa State researcher contributes computer expertise to chimp genome project

AMES, Iowa -- An Iowa State University computer scientist provided the software expertise that allowed researchers to piece together a draft of the chimpanzee genome.

Xiaoqiu Huang, an Iowa State associate professor of computer science, worked on the genome project for eight months with researchers from Washington University in St. Louis. The project's findings were published today in the journal Nature.

Scientists found that the human and chimpanzee genomes -- the complete sequence of each species' genes -- differ by 1.23 percent in what researchers call single-letter changes. Scientists believe the findings will help them learn more about the genetic changes that make humans and chimpanzees so different.

Huang said his role in the project was to develop and modify the computer software that produced a draft genome assembly. The software uses parallel computing techniques that simultaneously put 100 computers to work assembling millions of short DNA pieces.

Huang's software has also been used to assemble the chicken genome.

He said his next project is to continue to refine his software for these large assembly projects.