Joining the coding curriculums and hacking tutorials currently popular on GitHub, a new, potentially life-saving cancer detection software just entered the open-source community. Created by scientists from Johns Hopkins University, the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research and the University of Toronto, the computational software detects a modification on DNA linked with cancer.

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Called cytosine methylation, this substance is an altered version of cytosine, a building block of DNA. Once changed, it can harm healthy cells and hinder tumor suppressing genes, according to News Medical. Researchers are currently examining this mark to determine its association with diseases like cancer, lupus, and muscular dystrophy, among others, the site reports. The current methylation mapping techniques are tricky, requiring large and pre-treated tissue samples. However, this new software detects smaller samples and can be used with a commonly available DNA sequencing machine.

The technology works by using electric currents that change as DNA is pulled through small holes. The software analyzes the DNA sequence and looks for methylation marks. To ensure accuracy, researchers trained their software to distinguish regular cytosine and methylated cytosine using DNA they created in the lab with the additional marks.

Confident their product would work, researchers then tested the software on DNA samples from human breast cancer cells, successfully noticing changes in methylation between cancer and normal samples.

The team believes this is a huge advancement in detecting faulty methylation early and its role in birth defects and diseases like cancer. This software could further research in developing new treatments that target a patient’s genes.

“We already know that methylation changes show up early in the development of cancer,” says Winston Timp, an assistant professor of biomedical engineering at Johns Hopkins, in a statement.

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The software is free and available on open-source host

“We’ve taken this line of research a critical step further ahead,” Timp says in a statement. “My hope is that others in this field will begin using the software right away.”

Timp and his team aren’t the first to give away a potential money maker in an attempt to cure cancer. Dr. James Bradner, M.D., has garnered lots of coverage for sharing his cancer research and breakthroughs using an open-source model.

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