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March 20, 2014

IBM’s Watson Attempts to Tackle the Genomics of Brain Cancer

(Forbes) – This morning, IBM and the New York Genome Center announced a partnership to test whether Watson, the computer that won on Jeopardy, can sift through the genomes of cancer patients and help doctors pick drugs. This effort could hold the key to making DNA sequencing for cancer affordable, but there is a vast amount of work to do that will take years at a minimum.

‘Nano-Flares’ Catch Breast Cancer before It Spreads: Can Breakthroughs in Nanotechnology Block Metastasis?

(Medical Daily) – Breakthroughs in nanotechnology may help physicians spot the spread of breast cancer before it takes root in neighboring organs and tissue, providing an effective preventive strategy against the disease that kills nearly 40,000 American women each year. Dr. Chad Mirkin, a researcher at Northwestern University and one of the developers of the new technology, said in a press release that the innovation can help physicians spot red flags on an early cellular level.

March 19, 2014

Mom Sues for Wrongful Pregnancy after Failed Sterilization

(ABC News) – An Illinois woman is suing her doctor for “wrongful pregnancy,” claiming a botched tubal ligation led to the birth of a daughter with sickle cell disease. Cynthia Williams, a 40-year-old mother of three, only had one ovary and believed she couldn’t get pregnant because the tube tethering it to her womb had been tied –- or so she thought.

Two Premier Legue Clubs Sign Up with Top Genetics Company to Learn DNA Profiles of Players

(Daily Mail) – Two Barclays Premier League football clubs have commissioned tests of their players’ DNA, with an expert predicting genetic profiling will become ‘routine’ in elite sport over the next few years. It is claimed a simple swab test can determine an athlete’s power and endurance capacity, whether they are particularly prone to injury and what diet best suits their genes. British company DNAFit are already working with two top-flight English clubs as well as a ‘leading’ European side and Britain’s former 800 metres indoor world champion Jenny Meadows, the first athlete to reveal her DNA profile.

Researcher Discovers Genetic Mutation in Moroccan Jews

(Sun Sentinel) – This phenomenon, known as Progressive Cerebro-Cerebellar Atrophy (PCCA), affects dozens of Israeli families of Iraqi and Moroccan-Jewish descent. But thanks to the team of Dr. Ohad Birk, head of the Genetics Institute at Soroka Medical Center in the southern Israeli city of Be’er Sheva and The Morris Kahn Lab of Human Genetics at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU), that number may soon be reduced.

March 18, 2014

A Tumor, the Embryo’s Evil Twin

(New York Times) – Rough similarities between the growth of a tumor and the gestation of an embryo were first suggested more than a century ago. But no one could have guessed that the parallels would turn out to be so precise. Consider the gene SHH. The name is short for sonic hedgehog. (Hedgehog genes were discovered in fruit flies and when mutated they cause the larvae to be covered with a profusion of bristles.) In a human embryo, sonic hedgehog is involved with establishing the bilateral symmetry of the brain, skeleton and other organs. Later in life it can run amok, interacting with genes like SMO (for smoothened — another fruit fly derivation) to bring on a human brain cancer called medulloblastoma and a skin cancer called basal cell carcinoma.

His Fertility Advance Draws Ire

(New York Times) – With a name that most Americans can’t pronounce (it is Shoe-KHRAHT Mee-tuhl-EE-pov) and an accent that sounds like the villain’s in a James Bond film, Dr. Mitalipov, 52, has shaken the field of genetics by perfecting a version of the world’s tiniest surgery: removing the nucleus from a human egg and placing it into another. In doing so, this Soviet-born scientist has drawn the ire of bioethicists and the scrutiny of federal regulators.

Famous Breast Cancer Gene Could Affect Brain Growth

(Science) – The cancer gene BRCA1, which keeps tumors in the breast and ovaries at bay by producing proteins that repair damaged DNA, may also regulate brain size. Mice carrying a mutated copy of the gene have 10-fold fewer neurons and other brain abnormalities, a new study suggests. Such dramatic effects on brain size and function are unlikely in human carriers of BRCA1 mutations, the authors of the study note, but they propose the findings could shed light on the gene’s role in brain evolution.

China Bans Genetic Testing

(Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News) – For nearly a half-century, interrupted only by the Cultural Revolution, China promoted the growth of genetic testing to prevent and address birth defects through state-run hospitals, as well as charities and increasingly in recent years, private enterprises. Then last month, China reversed course. The China Food and Drug Administration posted a new regulation that immediately banned genetic testing—even previously approved services “including prenatal genetic testing, gene sequencing technology-related products, and cutting-edge products and technologies.”

HIV ‘Gene Hack’ Offers New Treatment Hope

(Nursing Times) – “HIV gene therapy using GM cells hailed a success after trial,” reports The Guardian, while the BBC tells us that an “immune upgrade” could offer “HIV shielding”. These headlines come following a small trial that examined whether it was safe to inject genetically modified white blood cells into people with HIV. This was achieved, but the study did not show whether HIV could actually be treated. This was the first human trial for the technique and involved 12 people that already had HIV.

March 17, 2014

New Ovarian Cancer Target Proposed

(Medical News Today) – Proteins called TAFs were once thought to be generic cogs in the machinery of gene expression, but in a new study Brown University scientists propose that they may be important suspects in the progression of ovarian cancer that should not continue to be overlooked. In the complex genomic and molecular conspiracy that gives rise to ovarian cancer, what if researchers have been missing a whole set of suspects because they’ve been hiding in plain sight?

Novel Gene-finding Approach Yields a New Gene Linked to Key Heart Attack Risk Factor

(Medical Xpress) – Scientists have discovered a previously unrecognized gene variation that makes humans have healthier blood lipid levels and reduced risk of heart attacks—a finding that opens the door to using this knowledge in testing or treatment of high cholesterol and other lipid disorders. But even more significant is how they found the gene, which had been hiding in plain sight in previous hunts for genes that influence cardiovascular risk.

Critical Role of One Gene to Our Brain Development

(Health Canal) – New research from the University of Adelaide has confirmed that a gene linked to intellectual disability is critical to the earliest stages of the development of human brains. Known as USP9X, the gene has been investigated by Adelaide researchers for more than a decade, but in recent years scientists have begun to understand its particular importance to brain development.

March 14, 2014

Video: Three Parent Children and Mitochondrial Transfer – British Parliament

(Parliament TV) Video footage from British Parliament discussion of Three Parent Children and Mitochondrial Transfer featuring MP Jacob Rees-Mogg. Westminster Hall, March 12, 2014.


Footage begins 15:58:55 and goes through 16:30.

March 13, 2014

F.D.A. panel recommends replacement for the Pap test

(New York Times) – The Pap test, a ritual for women that has been the mainstay of cervical cancer prevention for 60 years, may be about to play a less crucial role. A federal advisory committee recommended unanimously on Wednesday that a DNA test developed by Roche be approved for use as a primary screening tool.

New contender for ‘fat gene’ found

(Nature) – Scientists studying what they thought was a ‘fat gene’ seem to have been looking in the wrong place, according to research published today in Nature. It suggests instead that the real culprit is another gene that the suspected obesity gene interacts with.

Whole-genome data not ready for prime time

(Med Page Today) – Despite “huge” potential to identify hidden disease risks, whole-genome sequencing is not ready for its close-up. That’s the bottom line of a small study that looked at the reliability, accuracy, and medical utility of sequencing all of the DNA of 12 volunteers, according to Thomas Quertermous, MD, of the Stanford Cardiovascular Institute in Stanford, Calif., and colleagues.

MicroRNA therapy may help heart failure

(Union Times San Diego) – A team including Sanford-Burnham Medical Research scientists has identified a form of RNA that plays a key role in inducing heart failure. Called miR-25, the molecule is a short fragment of RNA, called microRNA. In a model of heart failure in mice, increasing the level of miR-25 reduced the efficiency of heart muscle contraction. Inhibiting miR-25 halted heart failure that had already been established.

March 12, 2014

China cracks down on DNA testing

(Forbes) – Genetic testing has grown to be a business big enough in China to warrant the government’s intervention. Early in February, the government quietly put the brakes on the provision of genetic tests to customers by domestic hospitals and a variety of medical and health institutions. If the ban persists it could blunt the ambitions of Shenzhen-based BGI, which has the world’s largest gene-sequencing capacity, and its various competitors, including Beijing-based Berry Genomics, Hunan-based Second Xiangya Hospital of Central South University, and Shenzhen-listed DAAN Gene.

Genome sequencing stumbles towards the clinic

(Nature) – Sequencing a person’s entire genome can reveal potentially life-saving information about the presence of mutations associated with diseases. But there are drawbacks — a study published this week finds that current sequencing technology does not always capture the complete genome, and illustrates the challenges of interpreting what the results mean for an individual patient.

Court denies Myriad motion to block rival genetic tests

(Reuters) – Myriad Genetics Inc said a U.S. court denied its motion to temporarily stop rival Ambry Genetics Corp from selling products similar to Myriad’s gene-based cancer test, the latest setback for the diagnostics company. Myriad’s shares fell 12 percent before the bell on Tuesday. Myriad’s problems started last June when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the company could not patent naturally occurring human genes, curbing the company’s monopoly over a type of gene-based cancer testing.


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