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May 16, 2017


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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DNA technology, volcanic ash help pinpoint when bisons arrived in North America

This is not a recent story but with the re-introduction of Bison to the wild in Alberta and the first newborn bison calves to the herd, we thought this is worth including. Canadian scientists have used genetic and geologic information to conclude that bison first appeared in North America 135,000 to 195,000 years ago.
Source: Fox News

USDA considers release of GM moths to control broccoli pest, GM virus to stop citrus greening

“Eat your brocolli” is not something you need to tell a diamondback moth. Nevertheless there is a plan to release thousands of the moths that have been genetically modified to repress female survival (a “female autocidal trait). The idea is to test an insecticide free control method.
Source: Genetic Literacy Project

Science outreach at specialized conferences

Most people in the research community tend to agree that some sort of outreach is important to ensure support from the public, media, and politicians, for ongoing funding. Too often however, science communication becomes an extra part of the job that becomes time consuming, requires a different skill set, and is generally not rewarded in academic setting. An idea for collective outreach is one that takes the burden off the individual and spreads public engagement across a group of interested scientists and researchers.
Source: Scientific American

Novel antibiotic resistance gene in milk

Researchers have found a new antibiotic resistance gene in bacteria from dairy cows. It has the potential to become a public health problem that puts a strain in the antibiotics that are still effective in the treatment of infections in humans.
Source: PhysOrg

Defying Trump, Congress gives NIH $2 billion boost

There seems to be a deal in Congress fund the U.S. Government through to the September 30 of this year. Funding had been frozen and no new programs or spending has been allowed for the past 7 months and there was a danger of another ‘government shutdown’. Despite what the Trump administration has said it wanted to cut National Institutes of Health funding, the new spending bill actually give the NIH a 6.2% increase.
Source: AAAS Science

Melinda Wenner Moyer tracks drug-resistant bacteria from farm to table

Raising livestock in closer quarter means a higher likelihood of the spread of disease and makes farmers more likely to use antibiotics as a preventative measure. One of the inevitable results is more antibiotic resistant infections. Melinda Warner has been connecting the antibiotic dots starting at the farmgate and in this interview talks about how she has got the work done.
Source: The Open Notebook

LISTEN: Jay Ingram on science communication

This podcast from the Science in the City website manages to cover a lot of ground in only 30 minutes. Jay talks about his Beakerhead organization, the state of science communications, and how we can deal with some of the challenges in explaining science. He makes several interesting points but you might take note of the fact that in his view at least, an afternoon workshop does not make you a science communicator and that ‘lay summaries’ are probably anything but.
Source: Science in the City

HeLa cells could have undermined research to the tune of billions of dollars

HeLa cells have been growing so well since the Fifties when they were taken from Henrietta Lacks (without the consent of her or her family) they may have contaminated many of the world's other cell lines used for scientific research. The implications may be both wide and deep.
Source: CBC

Secrets of tea plant revealed by science

Your favourite cuppa may get a little bit better thanks to research taking place in China. Scientists have been working for several years to understand the genome of Camellia Sinensis which goes into black, green, and oolong teas. The tea plant genome is more than four times the size of the coffee plant genome so it has been a lot more work to help understand what goes into tea time than what you will pour during your next coffee break.
Source: BBC

Can tree planting really help mitigate climate change?

Depends on where, when, and how.
Source: Earth and Space Science News

Great leaf forward: The top 10 trends driving the Canadian advanced bioeconomy

This article from Biofuels Digest says Canada is holding its own and exceeding expectations in the global bioeconomy. From biofuels in aviation to the development of a bioindustrial complex in Ontario, this article says a home-grown approach is paying off.
Source: Biofuels Digest

NIH launches competition to develop human eye tissue in a dish

The National Eye Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health, has opened the first stage of a federal prize competition designed to generate miniature, lab-grown human retinas. This idea stage is open and Stage II will launch in the fall of this year.
Source: NIH

Dear Jeanie: Whole Genome Sequencing

The National Society of Genetic Counselors has a blog series that features fictional questions to a genetic counsellor complete with ‘answers’ from Jeanie the counsellor. It is work checking the blog series and here is a sample to whet your interest.
Source: NSGC

Feature: Gene Editing News Up arrow

Scientists calling for national discussion on gene-editing technology

The Australian Academy of Science has called for a national discussion on how to deal with gene editing technology. Synthetic gene drives in Australia: implications of emerging technologies was released on May 1st and highlighted the benefits and hazards of the technology as it became more common across Australia.
Source: ABC News

WATCH: How scientists think CRISPR will change medicine

Earlier this month Fortune magazine held its Brainstorm Health Conference. One of the panels featured Othman Laraki of Color Genomics, Eric Topol of Scripps Translational Science Institute, and J. Craig Venter of Human Longevity. The whole days was livestreamed and portions are still available online including their discussion on the promises and perils of CRIPR technology.
Source: Time

Using CRISPR to find treatments for aggressive pediatric brain cancer

Atypical teratoid/rhabdoid tumors are develop in very young children and the prospects for survival are bleak. Simone T. Sredni has been researching pediatric brain cancer for 15 years and feels that CRISPR/Cas9 technology may finally over some hope to treat AT/RT. It is still early days but she has some promising results she hopes to move to a Phase 1 clinical trial soon.
Source: Bioscience Technology

Genome editing of plants and livestock needs new approach to regulation

Gene editing does not add outside DNA in plant or animal breeding so it is not a GMO according to current EU regulations. Those regulations were written before gene editing was a practical tool and clarification of what is a GMO is part of a forthcoming decision of the EU Directorate General for Health and Food Safety. A report by the European Academies' Science Advisory Council says there is an urgent need to clarify the status of organism bred using gene editing technology. Without it, researchers, breeders, and companies are almost paralyzed on GMOs.
Source: Science Business

Papers & Features Up arrow

A functional screening of the kinome identifies the Polo-like kinase 4 as a potential therapeutic target for malignant rhabdoid tumors, and possibly, other embryonal tumors of the brain

Sredni, S, et al. Pediatric Blood & Cancer (2017), DOI: 10.1002/pbc.26551

Simone T. Sredni has been researching pediatric brain cancer for 15 years and feels that CRISPR/Cas9 technology may finally over some hope to treat AT/RT.
Malignant rhabdoid tumors (MRTs) are deadly embryonal tumors of the infancy. With poor survival and modest response to available therapies, more effective and less toxic treatments are needed. We hypothesized that a systematic screening of the kinome will reveal kinases that drive rhabdoid tumors and can be targeted by specific inhibitors.
Source: Pediatric Blood & Cancer

Panacea in progress: CRISPR and the future of its biological research introduction

Carrollb, M, et al Microbiological Research (2017) DOI: 10.1016/j.micres.2017.04.012

Here, we narrate the scientific dialogue regarding CRISPR/Cas biotechnologies, from the happenstantial initial observation of the locus to the litany of intriguing contemporary endeavors. We discuss the mechanistic underpinnings in detail, and the corpulent body of literature on CRISPR-based biotech is digested into a germane and informative review.
Source: Microbiological Research

Quantifying family dissemination and identifying barriers to communication of risk information in Australian BRCA families

Healey E, et al., Genetics in Medicine (2017) doi:10.1038/gim.2017.52

Recommendations for BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutation carriers to disseminate information to at-risk relatives pose significant challenges. This study aimed to quantify family dissemination, to explain the differences between fully informed families (all relatives informed verbally or in writing) and partially informed families (at least one relative uninformed), and to identify dissemination barriers.
Source: Genetics in Medicine

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.

Genomics and Society: Expanding the ELSI Universe

This 4th ELSI Congress is the latest in a series of major conferences for researchers and others interested in the ethical, legal and social implications (ELSI) of genomic research. With keynote speakers, plenary panels, workshops, and a wide range of paper, panel, and poster presentations, the Congress will provide an opportunity for scholars to reflect on current research and to envision future directions for ELSI research.

When: June 5-7, 2017
Where: Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine campus, UConn Health, Farmington, Connecticut

More information and registration available on the conference website.

Personalized Medicine Summit

The 2nd Personalized Medicine Summit 2017 follows on from the highly successful first summit in 2015, which resulted in a consensus advisory document, the Roadmap for Bringing Personalized Medicine to British Columbians.

The deliverable of the summit meeting will be an updated edition of the 2015 roadmap publication to assist government, the public and healthcare providers to implement personalized precision medicine to result in more efficient and effective healthcare.

When: June 11-13, 2017
Where: Life Sciences Institute, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC

Register now for the 2nd Personalized Medicine Summit

Additional summit information, including program & accommodations

Agriculture Bioscience International Conference

Hosted by the Life Science Association of Manitoba and the Government of Manitoba, this year's ABIC Conference is set up to provide three days of guest speakers, student research presentations, exhibitors and networking opportunities for attendees.

A few of the topics to be presented:
  • Quality versus Quantity and the Implication to Food Security
  • Nutrigenomics / Nutrigenetics – How our DNA will shape our diets in the Future
  • Smart Farms - The Link between Biotechnology and Enhanced Nutrition
When: September 25 - 28, 2017
Where: Delta Winnipeg Hotel, Winnipeg, Manitoba

More details on the program, accommodations and registration can be found here.

American Society of Human Genetics Annual Meeting

The 67th Annual Meeting of the American Society of Human Genetics is the largest human genetics meeting and exposition in the world. This year’s meeting is expected to attract over 6,500 scientific attendees, plus almost 250 exhibiting companies. The meeting provides a forum for the presentation and discussion of cutting-edge science in all areas of human genetics.

When: October 17 - 21, 2017
Where: Orange County Convention Center, Orlando Florida

More info & registration is available at the meeting website.

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