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A Japanese research institute is building a digital garden to store the genes of every plant

Researcher in a clean suit working in a greenhouse. Image Credit: Wix
Researcher working in a greenhouse. Image Credit: Wix

One of Japan's leading institutes for genetic research is looking to build a digital garden housing the genetic code for every plant on Earth.

Japan's Kazusa DNA Research Institute is developing a new initiative called Plant GARDEN that will provide open access to researchers and amateur hobbyists interested in plant genetics.

While other databases exist specifically for experts, this initiative purports to be the first to open up its research to anyone curious about plants and their genetic makeup.

"I believe that the use of genome information will expand to more fields in the future," says Sachiko Isobe, the laboratory head of the Department of Frontier Research and Development at the Kazusa Research Institute. "We developed a database with a user interface that allows beginners to easily access the data while storing advanced information that experts would want to use."

Founded in 1994 as the world's first research center specializing in DNA research, Kazusa has been a longtime contributor to the global understanding of genetics.

With the Plant GARDEN, Isobe and her colleagues are studying and sequencing flowering plants known as angiosperms.

These plants have proven tricky to genetically map, thanks to their diverse genome sizes and more than two sets of chromosomes.

The initiative is still in its infancy, but these Japanese scientists have already collected genetic information on over 120 plant species including rhododendrons, fig trees, daikons, and Korean chestnuts. The database also collects multiple full genomes of the same plant to capture the diversity of mutations that can exist.

"Obtaining genome sequences for diverse organisms is important, however, [the] data management platform is also becoming important," Isobe said in a statement. "We'd like to provide a user-friendly platform for investigating and understanding plant diversity for both plant genome scientists and people who intend to solve world food production issues and environmental issues."

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