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September 5, 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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Here's what the new NHS app will look like - and why it could have been so much worse

The National Health Service in the U.K. is developing an app which will help patients make appointments, renew prescriptions, check test results, and much more – all from their smartphone or tablet. There is even an option to specify what end-of-life care you want to receive. It is a massive undertaking and one that could create confusion, real problems, and a PR nightmare if it does not go well. This article offers an in-depth look at the app development with lessons for any health care system undertaking a similar task.
Source: Gizmodo

Life with Lyme Disease

1A is a program from National Public Radio in the United States which offers some well balanced, quality content on many subjects. This podcast episode runs about 47 minutes and offers some excellent insight into how Lyme disease affects patients. There are audio clips from people with the disease, and interviews with medical experts.
Source: NPR

Sequenced fox genome hints at genetic basis of behavior

The genome of the fox has been sequenced and it presents a unique opportunity thanks to a Russian study. For more than a decade now the Russian Institute of Cytology and Genetics has been selecting foxes for tameness or aggression to simulate the process of domestication from wolves to modern dogs. Now with some solid genomics information in hand, researchers can make some links between fox genetics and fox behaviour.
Source: Phys Org

Newspaper op-eds change minds

“Researchers have found that op-ed pieces have large and long-lasting effects on people's views among both the general public and policy experts. The study also found that Democrats and Republicans altered their views in the direction of the op-ed piece in roughly equal measure.”
Source: Science Daily

Scientists stunned by a neanderthal hybrid discovered in a Siberian cave

"When you find a needle in a haystack, you have to start wondering if what you’re really looking at is a needlestack. This genome shows that hybrids were nowhere near as rare as people have been assuming.”
Source: The Atlantic

The future of AI in the life sciences

People are complex organisms, and understanding them in health and in sickness requires the guidance of doctors and researchers to navigate the underlying biological activities. Artificial intelligence can help us get past the routine aspects of that understanding and in finding patterns that would take a lifetime to find using other methods. AI will not replace doctors but it does hold tremendous possibilities when people and machines work together.
Source: Signals Blog (part of the Genome Alberta funded Science Borealis network)

Would you eat ‘meat’ from a lab? Consumers aren’t necessarily sold on ‘cultured meat'

Meat that is produced from cell cultures is getting closer to hitting the consumer market. The science is ready, but are consumers ready to take a big bite of a burger that has been grown in a lab and not in a pasture? A U.S. survey says that people under 40 are more likely to say that they would try cultured meat.
Source: The Conversation

Why we’re editing women scientists onto Wikipedia

Between 84% and 91% of Wikipedia editors are male and only 17.7% of the biographies written in English are about women. The WikiProject Women Scientists is aimed at changing those numbers with a concentrated focus on female scientists. The project could use some help if you want to pitch in.
Source: Nature

Russian trolls used vaccine debate to sow discord, study finds

Fake and bot accounts that are believed to have been involved in the 2016 U.S. elections, also tried their hand at stirring up the vaccine debate. The accounts didn’t take sides but instead chose to ramp up the rhetoric and raise the level of hostility all round.
Source: New York Times

Forget the 401(k), stem cell benefits may let you cheat death

Companies selling the concept of living forever as an employee benefit, Former ISSCR president Sean Morrison debunks myth that stem cells can extend life.
Source: Forbes

The revolution that rewrote life’s history

The Tangled Tree: A Radical New History of Life has been getting a lot of attention lately because it seems grade school classes need a refresh. This post is adapted from the new book by David Quammen.
Source: The Atlantic

Blog Carnival: We’re answering this year’s question with a firm “maybe!”

The question was “has regenerative medicine industry come of age?" The not-for-profit CCRM (Centre for Commercialization of Regenerative Medicine) collected ideas on the topic from a group of bloggers.
Source: Signals Blog

Don’t want the cops to find you through a DNA database? It may already be too late

Police are analyzing DNA and using genealogy websites to identify potential suspects through familial connections. Investigators are ahead of the technology curve on this one and if you don’t want your information to be part of a “genetic stop and frisk”, chances are you’re out of luck.
Source: The Star

A biography of cannabis

In a couple of months it will be legal to buy and sell marijuana. As the media, researchers, and retailers threaten to tip over the bandwagon as they hop on board, it might be time take a step back from reefer madness and read a bit about our history with the weed. This article will take you from the Stone Age right through to a more modern stoned age.
Source: Globe & Mail

Feature: Gene Editing News Up arrow

University clears NgAgo gene-editing study authors of deception

A Chinese university has concluded that the authors of a controversial gene-editing paper that was later retracted did not intend to deceive the scientific community. The paper, published in Nature Biotechnology on 2 May 2016, detailed how an enzyme called NgAgo could edit genomes with similar accuracy and efficiency to the widely used CRISPR–Cas9 gene-editing system.

CRISPR gene editing shows promise for treating a fatal muscle disease

Scientists using a CRISPR–Cas9 gene-editing technique have managed to pump up muscle protein levels in four dogs suffering from the most common form of muscular dystrophy. The advance may hasten clinical trials for similar treatments in humans battling this fatal muscle-wasting illness.
Source: Scientific American

The patients who don't want to be cured

A hemophiliac says his genetic disorder is part of his identity, and therapies like CRISPR threaten to erase it.
Source: The Atlantic

Papers & Features Up arrow

Why are scientists so quiet? Cultural and philosophical constraints on the public voice of the scientist

Johnston, E. Journal & Proceedings of the Royal Society of New South Wales (2018) ISSN 0035-9173/18/010050-09

Presented as “notes from the field”, the author addresses the challenge of getting scientific points across to a public that is bombarded by mountains of good, bad, and so-so information. She suggests more cross discipline collaboration but also working with communities, businesses, and industry.
Source: Journal & Proceedings of the Royal Society of New South Wales

A genetic study using 23andMe data finds link between schizophrenia and cannabis use

Pasman, J., Nature Neuroscience (2018) doi.org/10.1038/s41593-018-0206-1

A new study published in Nature Neuroscience suggests there is a link between cannabis use and schizophrenia but it is not clear which comes first.
Source: Gizmodo

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.

Join Genome Alberta's CSO to talk about the next big boom

The good news: Alberta’s economy is on the rise. Even better news: The ever-expanding and diversifying industries are laying the groundwork for the province’s next boom. Join moderator, economist Peter Tertzakian, to get an inside perspective on how the convergence of science, technology, education, tourism and energy will transform Alberta, leading to lasting economic benefit.

The event is part of the U of C’s Alumni Weekend and will feature a panel of five alumni:

  • Dr. Elizabeth Cannon BSc'84, MSc'87, PhD'91, President and vice-chancellor, University of Calgary
  • Alice Reimer, BSc’99, MBA’03, Site lead, Creative Destruction Lab – Rockies
  • Ricardo Miranda, BA’06, Minister, Culture and Tourism, Province of Alberta
  • Dr. Gijs van Rooijen, PhD’93, Chief Scientific Officer, Genome Alberta
  • Ian MacGregor, BSc’71, President, CEO and chairman, North West Refining
When: September 8, 2018, 11:15 - 12:15pm
Where: University of Calgary, MacEwan Ballroom


Beakerhead brings people together at the crossroads of art, science and engineering. Year-round programming culminates in a five-day citywide spectacle with more than 60 events centred around delightfully bizarre engineered installations and artworks.

Who should attend? Everyone!
Why? Because Creativity is Crucial. When you throw open the doors to science and engineering through a welcoming world of art and entertainment, a lot can happen.

Beakerhead is a registered charity whose mandate is to advance education at the crossroads of art, science and engineering.

When: September 19-23, 2018
Where: Throughout Calgary

The program of events and more information is available at Beakerhead.com


BioAlberta's 19th Annual AGM & Awards Gala

BioAlberta, in partnership with TEC Edmonton, presents the Health & Life Sciences Showcase and BioAlberta's 19th Annual Awards Gala.

Participants will have an opportunity for:
  • Company pitch sessions
  • One-on-one partnering meetings
  • Round table sessions on health economics and natural health products
Registration opening soon!

When: 24 September 2018
Where: BMO Centre, Stampede Park, Calgary

Check the website for details and registration announcements.

Canadian Science Policy Conference 2018

The Canadian Science Policy Conference serves as an inclusive, non-partisan and national forum uniting stakeholders, strengthening dialogue, and enabling action with respect to current and emerging issues in national science, technology, and innovation policy.

The 10th Science Policy Conference, CSPC 2018, motto is Building Bridges Between Science, Policy, and Society. During the Conference, the 700+ participants and 200+ speakers will explore the motto through five different themes.
  • Science and Policy
  • Science and Society
  • Science, Innovation, and Economic Development
  • Science and International Affairs
  • Science and The Next Generation

When: November 7 - 9, 2018
Where: Delta Hotel, Ottawa, Ontario

For registration and more information, visit the CPSC website.

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