Genomics Blog

November 6, 2014 5:58 AM
The Return of the Debate: Are or Should Human Genes be Patentable?
This is a guest post from Palmira Granados Moreno, a D.C.L. Candidate Faculty of Law, McGill University and a Research Assistant at the Centre of Genomics and Policy.

ATCG courtest of the NIHEver since Myriad’s famous patents on the BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 genes and its assertive patent-oriented business strategies around the world, the matter of whether gene patents are or should be legal has been profusely discussed. This discussion has in fact brought about the publication of a number of peer reviewed articles and reports1,  the development of policies and guidelines2,  the public awareness as part of the Angelina effect, and even recently, the courts involvement and pronouncement in the U.S., Australia, and now Canada.  

This week, the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) started a legal process to challenge the legality of human gene patents before the Federal Court in Canada.
November 21, 2014 9:50 AM
Disappearing Copper - Genomics Could Solve a Mystery Happening Downstream
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Media Release, November 19, 2014. The licence to operate a mine has become more and more onerous, with mine development companies having to seriously consider the safety of the surrounding community and environment before putting a shovel in the ground. When complex geology and potential metal leaching is involved it can make this process even harder.
November 17, 2014 9:57 AM
U of L Appoints Dr. Nehal Thakor as its Fourth CAIP Chair
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Media Release, November 17, 2014. Dr. Nehalkumar (Nehal) Thakor’s research into the regulation of gene expression has implications for many fields, from biofuel production to cancer treatment.

 Thakor, a microbiologist, brings his expertise in synthetic biology to the University of Lethbridge as a Campus Alberta Innovation Program (CAIP) Chair of Synthetic Biology and RNA-based Systems. He was appointed to the seven-year position in September.

November 17, 2014 7:35 AM
U of L iGEM Team Earns Gold in Boston Competition
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Media Release, November 14, 2014. On the strength of a project that may one day lead to a new cell therapy to repair damaged neurons in the brain, the University of Lethbridge iGEM (international genetically engineered machine) team was awarded a gold medal at the iGEM Giant Jamboree 2014 in Boston from Oct. 30 to Nov. 3.

 Known as the Lethbridge Brainiacs, the iGEM team chose an ambitious project that involved using the brain’s own immune cells to facilitate recovery following a brain injury such as stroke.

 “I was dumbfounded and exhilarated,” says Evan Caton, a doctoral student in biomolecular sciences. “This is my first year at iGEM and there were some other really amazing teams there. It was pretty awesome just to be in Boston and be rewarded for the work that we’ve done over the past year.”

November 13, 2014 11:58 AM
Study Reveals New Information on Genetic Architecture of Kidney Cancer
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Media Release, November 12, 2014. A new study, conducted under the EU-funded CAGEKID project, has revealed a link between Renal Cell Carcinoma (RCC) and exposure to aristolochic acid.

The study, which involved a large group of kidney cancer patients in Europe, reveals new information on the genetic architecture of the disease. It also shows an apparent link between exposure to aristolochic acid and incidence of kidney cancer, particularly in Romania. Renal Cell Cancer (RCC) is a serious public health problem within Europe, where the highest global incidence of the disease is found. The number of RCC cases has been increasing over the last two decades, and it is now the eighth most common cancer in Europe. This study reveals that there is a link between this type of cancer and aristolochic acid, a compound found in plants of the Aristolochia genus. One of these plants, Aristolochia clematitis, commonly occurs throughout the Balkans.
November 8, 2014 8:50 AM
Seeking Science in Turkey - Part 3
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Mark Twain wrote The Innocents Abroad based on a trip he took in 1867. In one of the chapters, he described his visit to see the whirling dervishes in Turkey. It did not surprise me to see almost the identical ceremony in 2014. It has been performed as a religious ritual since the 13th century. In 2005, the 'Mevlevi Sema* Ceremony' of Turkey was named by UNESCO as one of the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. In recent years, this ancient religious ritual has morphed into a performance for tourists. As the dancers were in their apparent trances, I was thinking about the science that was suggested by our guide. He implied that there was perhaps an ancient foreshadowing of modern quantum theory by Rumi, the originator of the ancient Mevlevi Order.

Current information about the Sema ceremony indicates “it is scientifically recognized that the fundamental condition of our existence is to revolve”. This suggests a potential connection between the whirling dervishes and the spinning found in atomic particles. Is this perhaps a more recent attribution to what was initially designed as a religious ceremony? Here is how I’m looking at it: