In the world of biological research, machine learning models are revolutionizing our understanding of complex processes like RNA splicing. However, a common issue with these models is their lack of interpretability. They can make accurate predictions but struggle to explain how they came to those conclusions.
To address this problem, NYU researchers have developed an “interpretable-by-design” approach. This unique model not only delivers accurate predictions but also provides insights into the underlying biological processes involved in RNA splicing. This advancement has the potential to greatly enhance our understanding of this fundamental process.
Machine learning models, such as neural networks, have played a crucial role in advancing scientific discovery in the biological sciences. However, their lack of interpretability has been a persistent challenge. Despite their high accuracy, they often cannot explain the reasoning behind their predictions.
The “Interpretable-By-Design” Approach
The new “interpretable-by-design” approach overcomes this limitation by creating a neural network model explicitly designed to be interpretable while maintaining high predictive accuracy. This is a game-changer in the field, as it bridges the gap between accuracy and interpretability. Researchers can now not only obtain the correct answers but also understand how those answers were derived.
The model was meticulously trained using Python 3.8 and TensorFlow 2.6, with an emphasis on interpretability. Various hyperparameters were adjusted, and the training process gradually introduced learnable parameters. To enhance interpretability, regularization terms were introduced to ensure that the learned features were concise and comprehensible.
Generalizability and Insights
One remarkable feature of this model is its ability to make accurate predictions on different datasets from various sources. This demonstrates its robustness and its potential to capture critical aspects of splicing regulatory logic. It can be applied to diverse biological contexts, providing valuable insights across different RNA splicing scenarios.
The model’s architecture includes sequence and structure filters, which are essential for understanding RNA splicing. It assigns quantitative strengths to these filters, shedding light on their influence on splicing outcomes. The “balance plot” visualization tool allows researchers to explore and quantify how multiple RNA features contribute to splicing outcomes. This tool simplifies the understanding of the complex interplay of various features in the splicing process.
Moreover, this model has not only confirmed previously established RNA splicing features but also discovered two previously unknown exon-skipping features related to stem loop structures and G-poor sequences. These findings have been experimentally validated, further validating the model and the biological relevance of these features.
The “interpretable-by-design” machine learning model represents a powerful tool in the biological sciences. It achieves high predictive accuracy while providing a clear and interpretable understanding of RNA splicing processes. The model’s ability to quantify the contributions of specific features to splicing outcomes has various applications in the medical and biotechnology fields, from genome editing to the development of RNA-based therapeutics. This approach is not limited to splicing but can also be applied to decipher other complex biological processes, opening new avenues for scientific discovery.
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