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April 16, 2018


Welcome to the Genomics in Society Digest

Genomics in Society: Genomics and its related Ethical, Economic, Environmental, Legal and Social aspects.
This news digest is published by Genomics in Society at Genome Alberta. Feel free to forward to your colleagues.

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How do these elk become ‘bulletproof’?

A little nature, a little nurture, and some hard life lessons, have helped elk learn how to avoid hunters. Female elk in particular are more wary than the male and they have learned how to survive says a University of Alberta researcher.
Source: Research2Reality

Pioneering Alzheimer’s study in Colombia zeroes in on enigmatic protein

A genetic mutation that causes an early-onset form of Alzheimer’s may have arrived in South America with Spanish conquerors 375 years ago and has been affecting people in Colombia ever since. Researchers hope that a better understanding of the mutation may help find new treatments.
Source: Nature

USDA secretary accused of siding with industry over science in new report

A report from the Union of Concerned Scientists is highly critical of the U.S. agriculture secretary Sonny Perdue. He has rejected guidelines on antibiotic use in agriculture, ended pesticide bans, and rolled back school nutrition programs.
Source: The Guardian

Genomic analysis of 33 cancer types completed

Researchers funded by the National Institutes of Health have analyzed a data set of molecular and clinical information from over 10,000 tumors representing 33 types of cancer. With more than $300 million in total funding, the project involved more than 150 researchers at more than two dozen institutions. The result is the PanCancer Atlas which is summed up in a collection of 27 papers.
Source: NIH Research Matters

Squeaky clean mice could be ruining research

Most lab mice are kept in pristine conditions, but a few immunologists think a dose of dirt could make them a better model of human disease.
Source: Nature

What is precision medicine?

Dr. Rodger and Mr. Dishman tell you about precision medicine. All in one minute!
Source: Healthy Moments Radio Broadcast

CFIA now says Non-GMO Project Verified doesn’t mean non-GMO

After forcing some companies to change their labels over complaints of the Non-GMO Project Verified seal, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency now says the “butterfly” label does not imply a non-GMO claim.
Source: RealAgriculture

Doctors don’t feel qualified to interpret genomic tests, concludes Cambridge’s PHG Foundation

A new report from the PHG Foundation has concluded that the vast majority of hospital doctors do not consider themselves qualified or competent to interpret the results of genomic tests.
Source: Cambridge Independent

What is it with food acronyms?

When it comes to food and science many people insist on trusting bloggers over scientists. Remember what happened to MSG? It seems that fear works.
Source: BioTech NOW

The high price of food labels

Labelling does increase food cost say two agricultural economists who took on the task of wading through labels that promised various certifications.
Source: SciMoms

Changes coming to the way livestock antibiotics are purchased

Starting December 1, 2018 all livestock producers will need a prescription from a licenced veterinarian before they can buy a medically important antibiotic (MIA) for therapeutic use in livestock production. This applies to all beef cattle sectors - cow-calf operators, backgrounders and feedlots. The new policy applies to injectable products, and some boluses, calf scour treatments, in-feed & in-water antibiotics, and implants that contain MIA.
Source: Alberta Beef Producers (pdf file)

DNA tests for IQ are coming, but it might not be smart to take one

For a mere 50 bucks you can have your children tested to see the odds of earning a PhD or getting into the right special program in high school. Not a bad investment in their future and maybe yours if they get into that perfect high-paying job. Wrong, because that isn’t quite how the science works, but some people believe that is exactly what’s coming.
Source: MIT Review

Antibiotics increase mouse susceptibility to Dengue, West Nile, and Zika

It could be all about the microbiome according to researchers who found that when mice were treated with antibiotics and then infected with pathogens in the flavivirus family (which includes Zika, West Nile, and Dengue), they fared far worse than their untreated counterparts.
Source: The Scientist

Feature: Gene Editing News Up arrow

CRISPR use could lead to "organic" gene therapies for blood disorders

Researchers from the University of New South Wales have identified the gene-control mechanism that allows some individuals with sickle cell anemia type disorder to keep producing a fetal form of human hemoglobin, which naturally compensates for the lack of adult hemoglobin and so reduces disease severity. The researchers also used CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing to introduce these naturally beneficial mutations into cultured blood cells and boost production of fetal hemoglobin directly.
Source: Genetic Engineering and Technology News

LISTEN: Nature retracts CRISPR 'bull in a china shop' paper about gene editing

CRISPR is supposed to be highly targeted and not a shot in the dark. Last June a paper from Stanford researchers said that was not always the case and they had discovered hundreds of unintended genetic mutations when using CRISPR-Cas9. Needless to say that caused a great deal of concern but the paper in question has now been retracted.
Source: Quirks & Quarks

Papers & Features Up arrow

Beyond Consent: Building Trusting Relationships With Diverse Populations in Precision Medicine Research

Kraft, Stephanie A et al. The American Journal of Bioethics (2018) https://doi.org/10.1080/15265161.2018.1431322

While trust is important for all research relationships, the longitudinal nature of precision medicine research raises particular challenges for facilitating trust when the specifics of future studies are unknown. Based on focus groups with racially and ethnically diverse patients, we describe several factors that influence patient trust and potential institutional approaches to building trustworthiness.
Source: The American Journal of Bioethics

Underregistration and Underreporting of Stem Cell Clinical Trials in Neurological Disorders

Lee, TE, et al. Journal of Clinical Neurology (2018) https://doi.org/10.3988/jcn.2018.14.2.215

There has been considerable debate on the regulation of SC in Korea, especially after a particular investigator (Woo Suk Hwang) was found in 2005 to have conducted fraudulent research. This event prompted the Korean government to establish the National Bioethics Committee and place a moratorium on embryonic SC research up to May 2009.9 The Korean Bioethics and Safety Act was also enacted, and has since undergone revisions. SC therapies are currently regulated by the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety (MFDS) in Korea and must be approved in accordance with the Pharmaceutical Affairs Act. Clinical trials of new products must be conducted at designated clinical-trial institutions (including hospitals)...Despite events such as the Hwang incident, there are still clinical trials that are not registered and do not publish results.
Source: Journal of Clinical Neurology

Unexpected mutations after CRISPR– Cas9 editing in vivo - Retracted

Schaefer, KA, et al. Nature Methods (2017) doi:10.1038/nmeth.4293

Retracted online 30 March 2018

"However, concerns persist regarding secondary mutations in regions not targeted by the single guide RNA (sgRNA). Algorithms generate likely off-target sites for a given gRNA, but these algorithms may miss mutations."
Source: Nature Methods

Events Up arrow

Visit Genome Alberta's extensive Events Calendar on our website at GenomeAlberta.ca. Connect With Us to sign up for our newsletters and see the Calendar of Events.

Precision Medicine and Population Health Webinar

Common diseases are caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. In addition to finding rare genetic diseases with high individual and family risk, recent advances in genomics have enhanced our understanding of multiple genetic variants for these diseases. The contribution of multiple genes to most common diseases can be captured under the rubric of polygenic inheritance, in which additive effects of numerous genes create a normal distribution of disease risk in the population that can be quantified using additive genetic risk scores.

There has been a recent surge in scientific interest and publications in using genetic risk scores to stratify people by level of risk and explore using this information in prediction, screening and control of common diseases. Using cancer and heart disease as potential applications, this webinar will explore recent findings, scientific opportunities and challenges in using genetic risk scores in the prevention and control of common diseases.

Presenters Sekar Kathiresan, M.D. and Cecile Janssens, Ph.D. will review current experiences; and evidentiary, economic, data sharing and infrastructure, and outcome data requirements needed to implement and measure success of genome sequencing in improving health, followed by discussion and Q&As with an emphasis on how the presented information should inform an implementation science agenda in genomic medicine.

When: Wednesday May 9, 2018, 3:00 – 4:00 pm ET
Where: Online and NCI Shady Grove Campus Room 2W030

Registration is required to participate - More information available here.

Pint of Science

Join Genome Alberta’s own Harleen Ghuttora, along with Vince O’Gorman, and Alejandro Ramirez-Serrano to talk about science over a glass of your favourite refreshment.

They will be at the Village Brewery from 6:00p to 8:00p to talk about how we are handling the large amounts of data flooding into many sectors of society including robotics and business. Harleen will be talking about our little corner of the data pool and how researchers are processing DNA sequencing data to reveal information about human health, agriculture, and the environment.

When: May 16 from 6:00 to 8:00p
Where: Village Brewery, 5000 – 12a ST SE, Calgary

Impact of Science 2018

The AESIS Network brings together experts such as R&D evaluators, university managers, research councils, policy makers, funders, and other stakeholders of impact. The goal of this conference is sharing, evaluating and discussing best practices around the world on:
  • Policy strategies for societal impact
  • Creating (long-term) alliances between stakeholders
  • Regional, national and international instruments for evaluating and achieving impact
  • Current issues on i.e. public engagement, evidence-based policy, interdisciplinary approaches and harmonising definitions and assumptions.
When: June 14 - 15, 2018
Where: Fairmont Château Laurier, Ottawa, Ontario

For program & registration information, please visit the conference website.

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