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GE3LS Digest - November 16, 2011

The GE3LS Digest
A compendium of news and research from around the country and around the world

Date: November 16, 2011

This news digest is published by GE3LS at Genome Alberta. Feel free to forward to your colleagues.
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In this issue:
News  |  Papers   |  Events

Sociology journal special issue
The call for article manuscripts is now open for a special issue of Sociology, the journal of the British Sociological Association, to be edited by the team organising the EGN Genomics and Identity Politics Workstream. The special issue, entitled, 'Genetics: The Sociology of Identity' will be in print in October 2013. The call for submissions is now open until 31 July 2012.

Pope Benedict Adressess Stem Cell Conference
Excerpts from Pope Benedict XVI's speech to the adult stem cell conference held in Rome last week. From

Using microbial genome data for global public health
A consensus report has been released following an expert meeting organized by The National Food Institute, Danish Technical University, on microbiological genomic identification systems. The meeting bought together scientists and managers to discuss the development of a global system to allow genomic data to be aggregated, shared and used in an effective way to tackle global public health challenges in relation to infectious diseases.

Pigeon pea genome sequence could boost yields
More than a billion people could soon benefit from improved yields of the important drought-resistant crop pigeon pea now that its genome has been sequenced by a global partnership. The sequence, published online in Nature Biotechnology last week (6 November), should cut the time it takes to develop higher-yielding pigeon pea varieties from the 6–10 years required for traditional breeding techniques to three years with molecular techniques.

Stem cell pioneer Geron exiting such research, laying off staff, to focus on cancer drug tests
The company doing the first government-approved test of embryonic stem cell therapy is discontinuing further stem cell work, a move with stark implications for a field offering hope of future medicines for conditions with inadequate or no current treatments.

Human breast milk ‘stem cells’ circumvent embryonic dilemma
Research at the UWA Hartmann Human Lactation Research Group has discovered stem cell-like cells in breast milk with the potential to be used as an ethical, non-invasive alternative to stem cell therapies.

Does Science Need More Compelling Stories to Foster Public Trust?
The touching stories that advocacy groups are so good at telling should inspire scientists to use anecdotes of their own, argue two doctors from the University of Pennsylvania. In the scientific realm, anecdotal evidence—the individual patient, the single result—tends to be shunned in favor of large, dense data sets and impersonal statistical analyses.

Thousands of parents pay to store their children's umbilical cord blood (but scientists fear they are wasting their money)
Like any responsible new mother, Alex Silver wanted the very best for her first-born. That meant eating properly, no alcohol and exercising during pregnancy; non-toxic baby mattresses for the nursery and choosing the safest buggy.
And when Scarlett was born five years ago, like a growing number of British parents, she chose to have the blood from the baby’s umbilical cord (once considered medical waste) frozen and ‘banked’ – at a cost of £2,000.

Regulatory burden, cost risks weigh in crop development
In the past decade the amount of time and resources to bring a new biotech crop to market has peaked at over 13 years and US$136 million according to a new survey released by CropLife International and Phillips McDougall, a global business research organization. The first ever survey of the six major biotech crop developers measured the how time and cost have changed of this process in the last decade and examined the long and intricate path a new biotech crop must navigate

Guest professor speaks about DNA privacy
According to Scherr, the United States government started putting together the databases in the late 20th century as a means of collecting DNA samples of criminals to store as permanent records.
The genetic database, now heading toward becoming a national DNA database, has expanded to include DNA samples of U.S. born infants who are subject to genetic testing as a precaution for early detection of diseases and disorders and individuals who are arrested prior to conviction of felonies.

Genetic Testing for Down Syndrome: What It Can and Cannot Tell You
While some fear Sequenom’s test will lead to social pressure on women to abort babies with Down syndrome, especially because the woman can find out so early in the pregnancy, others are more hopeful, claiming that this knowledge will help parents expecting a child with Down syndrome to prepare and educate themselves before the baby is born. At worst, the test can serve to eliminate choice, as people too often assume a child with Down syndrome is a mistake to be corrected.

Genomes made real
There’s a chicken & egg problem with personal genomics. Until it gets ubiquitous and relatively transparent there is always going to be some letdown in terms of what it can, or can’t, tell us. But as long as there’s a letdown, it won’t become ubiquitous and transparent. That’s the main reason I put my genotype into the public domain. It doesn’t do me too much good or bad, but I wanted to show people that there’s nothing terrifying about it.

Speedy gene test helps tailor 'smart drugs' for individual cancer patients
A new test can identify gene defects in cancer patients that mean doctors can use ‘smart drugs’ to increase their chances of survival.
For the first time, researchers have devised a way of screening patients for mutations in 14 key cancer genes - at the same time.

New prenatal screening test is easier but raises ethical issues
“As the technology has developed, there are these really big ethical issues that are emerging and most clinicians are not ready to deal with them,” says Benn. “Part of my interest has been to draw attention to these ethical issues and in having a discussion about what is the right way to use the new technology.”


Is the Charter ‘applied ethics’ in law’s clothing?
The interaction of law and ethics is increasingly overt in developing and implementing social and public policy, especially in contexts that affect human life and well-being such as reproductive technologies, public health, drug addiction, end-of-life decision-making and prostitution. The Supreme Court’s judgment in the Insite case manifests this interaction, and examining it from that perspective provides insight.

Incorporating Best Safety Practices into Nanotechnology Research and Development
Dr. Charles Geraci is a Senior Scientist and Coordinator of the Nanotechnology Research Center at the U.S. National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). He will be speaking at the University of Alberta on November 16th at 3:30.
Admission is free but seating is limited so arrive early.

Where: University of Alberta Engineering Teaching and Learning Complex (ETLC), Room 1-007, Located at 116 Street, between 91 and 92 Avenues, Edmonton
When: November 16th, 3:30p – 4:45p

Canadian Science Policy Conference
November 16-18, 2011
Ottawa Convention Centre, Ottawa Ontario

Predictive Genetic Testing, Risk Communication and Risk Perception
November 21-22, 2011
Berlin, Germany

Canadian Bioethics Society Annual Conference: Fostering Innovation in Canadian Bioethics

May 31-June 2, 2012

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