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August 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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LISTEN: The wild west of stem cells

In our last newsletter we had several stories about clinics offering unproved stem cell treatments. This new podcast features several aspects of the story and some of the people we mentioned in our story round-up. You’ll hear from George Gibson (a patient left blind after a dubious stem cell treatment), bioethicist Leigh Turner, and stem cell researchers Jeanne Loring and Paul Knoepfler.
Source: Health News Review

Biological teleporter could seed life through galaxy

It isn’t exactly a teleporter and it may never spread our genetics across the galaxy. But the Synthetic Genomics machine (which is really a network of machines) can transmit digital instructions from one location to another to print viruses. What could possible go wrong?
Source: MIT Technology Review

Even bacteria have baggage, and understanding that is key to fighting superbugs

New research points to treatment strategies for multi-drug antibiotic resistance using currently available drugs. The study demonstrates how different adaptation histories of bacterial pathogens to antibiotics leads to distinct evolutionary dynamics of multi-drug resistance.
Source: Science Daily

Scientists can't be silent

Science research needs to be funded, and politicians need to know that there is support for funding science research. However the public is becoming more distrustful of scientists and politicians. Then there is the White House under President Trump with its less facts-more rhetoric approach to policy. The result is a threat to sustained, long term funding for science.. This article says that scientists need to step up and fight for their work.
Source: AAAS Science

Scientists hack a computer using DNA

Just so that we are not setting off your alarm bells – DNA was not used to hack into a typical home PC or laptop. Researchers encoded malware into a short stretch of DNA then used it to hack the computer that tried to process the genetic data. Using a similar approach, altered blood or spit samples could be used to steal information from forensic labs analyzing the samples said the researchers. But not anytime soon. The fact that it appeared to work in an ideal setting however, does show that what was once the stuff of fiction is really not that far off.
Source: MIT Technology Review

Poll: Canadians want mandatory GMO labelling on food, don't know what GMOs are

An Angus Reid poll has shown that when it comes to GMOs the survey results are pretty similar to what we have seen in the US. Canadian want GMO foods labelled and they are hesistant about eating them bit don’t know exactly what a GMO is or how GM food is produced.
Source: Daily Hive and Global News

Innovative science research in Canada is dying a silent death

This article by University of British Columbia professor of genetics Kelly Marshall McNagny points out that many Canadian research labs employ fewer trainees and that some are considering closing or moving. Part of the problem is in guiding the public and politicians down the path that starts with basic science and ends up in a new medial treatment or product.
Source: Macleans

‘Frankenfish’ spawns exaggerated rhetoric as sales start in Canada

Fish were once marketed as “nature’s perfect brain food” and now some U.S. politicians are saying the genetically modified AquaBounty salmon is not even a fish. The genetically modified salmon is the first food product to work its way through the FDA approval process but the fight over the “freaky” fish is not over as you’ll see in this YouTube video.
Source: Alaska Dispatch News

Multi-nutrient rice against malnutrition

Researchers at ETH in Zurich have developed a new rice variety that not only has increased levels of the micronutrients iron and zinc in the grains, but also produces beta-carotene as a precursor of vitamin A. This could help to reduce micronutrient malnutrition, or ‘hidden hunger’, which is widespread in developing countries.
Source: ETH

The intelligent and connected bio-labs of the future: Promise and peril in the fourth industrial revolution

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is defined as the technology surge that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological worlds and is being felt across all disciplines and economies. This paper from the Wilson Center says that gene editing, DNA synthesis, artificial intelligence, automation, cloud-computing, and others tools are all contributing to the growing intelligence and connectivity of laboratories. Like industrial revolutions before it, this brings opportunities and challenges.
Source: Wilson Centre

Feature: Gene Editing News Up arrow

CRISPR and the ethics of human embryo research: What U.S. government policy should Be

News that U.S. scientists led by Oregon Health and Sciences University biologist Shoukrat Mitalipov have used the gene-editing technique known as CRISPR to modify the DNA of human embryos has led to renewed debate over human genetic engineering. Although scientists in China and the United Kingdom have already used gene editing on human embryos, the announcement that the research is now being done in the United States makes a U.S. policy response all the more urgent.
Source: Foreign Affairs

Embryo study’s success may shift the topic from ethics to efficacy

One of the fears about using CRISPR in human embryo editing is off-target errors. The latest published research however is showing higher success rates and lower mistake rates. We may have reached a point of no return, and as the studies and tools get better there could be fewer discussions around ethical issues and a shift to more discussion around the efficacy of the technology.
Source: Biocentury

WATCH: Gene Editing Breakthrough

This 25 minute interview by Charlie Rose focuses on the recent gene editing of a human embryo, the implications of the research, and the future. It features Richard Hynes, Shoukhrat Mitalipov, Hank Greely, and Pam Belluck
Source: PBS

The designer baby era is not upon us

Another feature in our last newsletter was a few of the many stories on the team of researchers who had used CRISPR tools to modify a human embryo. The failure rate in the research was low, the team did not use federal grant funding so it was legal, and overall the results will prove to be a ‘big deal’ in reproductive technology. It has also raised fears of designer babies and a Gattaca styled future (btw isn’t it about time for a new genetic dystopia movie?). Not quite yet says Ed Yong in this article.
Source: The Atlantic

Papers & Features Up arrow

Vision loss after intravitreal injection of autologous “stem cells” for AMD

Kuriyan, A., et al, New England Journal of Medicine (2017) DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa1609583

As you may seen in our last couple of Digest issues there are a growing number of reports of stem cell treatments that are not backed up by the science. Unfortunately there are also more cases where the results have made some conditions worse. You’ll need NEJM to get access to the full paper.
Source: New England Journal of Medicine

Future of Rare Diseases Research 2017–2027: an IRDiRC Perspective

Austin, C., et al. Clinical and Translational Science (2017). DOI: 10.1111/cts.12500

The International Rare Diseases Research Consortium (IRDiRC), feels that its 2020 goals have already been largely achieved. The Consortium has set new global rare disease goals for the coming decade with the aim of improved health for people living with rare diseases worldwide.
Source: Clinical and Translational Science

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.

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.

4th Annual Canadian Conference on Epigenetics: Mechanisms of Disease

This symposium is intended to bring together a critical mass of epigenetics researchers, along with key international leaders in the field, to engage in cross-disciplinary dialogue on recent advancements in the field of epigenomics with a focus on the impact of epigenetic mechanisms in human disease.

Travel awards are available for research trainees, medical students, and knowledge dissemination experts. Please see www.epigenomes.ca/events for more information.

When: November 26 - 29, 2017
Where: The Westin Resort & Spa, Whistler, British Columbia

Registration is now open and there is still time to submit your presentation ideas and abstracts.

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