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October 3, 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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Netflix will stream Tim Caulfield’s “A User’s Guide to Cheating Death”

Starting on September 28th Netflix began streaming Season 1 of Tim Caulfield’s series and then on October 19th it will start airing Season 2. Or you can catch it a little earlier on Vision TV starting on the 15th at 9:00p Eastern or 6:00p Pacific.

Whether it is weird and wonderful detoxing options, extreme diets, holistic medicine, or souping up your genetics, wanting to look and feel younger than we really are makes us all vulnerable to marketers willing to sell us the latest wellness products. The Canadian production has been picked up in the UK, Russia, India, Denmark, and Hong Kong.

Read more about the series on the Vision TV website, and the Edmonton Journal’s Paula Simons has a “User’s guide to Timothy Caulfield”.

Scientists sequence the genome of this threatened species

It is official. We now know what makes a lynx a Canadian lynx thanks to the sequencing of its genome. This story is a good one but the video that accompanies it – and has nothing to do with the sequencing – is worth 6 minutes of your life. Takes ‘cat videos’ to a whole new level.
Source: Big Think

New means to fight ‘un-killable’ bacteria in healthcare settings

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control has called Pseudomonas aeruginosa a “nightmare bacteria” that has a unique ability to antibiotics from penetrating its cell structure. The bacteria can cause serious infections in people with weakened immune systems and is a leading cause of death for people with cystic fibrosis. Working with P aeruginosa, scientists at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre have identified a new method to fight drug-tolerant bacteria.
Source: McGill University Health Centre

Genetic detectives identify three cartels smuggling African ivory

There are only 400,000 elephants left in Africa and poaching is killing off 10% every year. Three smuggling operations based in Mombasa, Kenya; Entebbe in Uganda; and Lomé in Togo are responsible for most of the illegal trade.
Source: Financial Times

Scientists can lead the fight against fake news

We are surrounded by so much information that is either wrong or deliberately misleading that we too often simply shrug it off. Health, the environment, and science in general have all become victims of the confusion over what is a solid fact, what is opinion, and what is simply wrong. Scientists need to speak up not just in their capacity as scientists, but a citizens as well.
Source: World Economic Forum

More Canadian clinics are offering unproven stem cell therapies, study finds

A Canadian-born researcher currently at the University of Minnesota Centre for Bioethics says more unlicensed clinics offering stem cell therapies have started up in Canada. Leigh Turner identified 30 businesses at 43 clinics across Canada engaged in direct-to-consumer stem cell therapies. His study appeared in Future Medicine – Regenerative Medicine and a media release quickly got the word out to kick start stories appearing across the country:
Source: CBC and CTV

The case for expensive antibiotics

Can pricing reduce the overuse of antibiotics and help meet the challenge of anti-microbial resistance? The story of Nostrum Laboratories and the drug nitrofurantoin, offers some insight into unintended consequences.
Source: Wired

Scientists sequence the genome of this threatened species

It is official. We now know what makes a lynx a Canadian lynx thanks to the sequencing of its genome. This story is a good one but the video that accompanies it – and has nothing to do with the sequencing – is worth 6 minutes of your life. Takes ‘cat videos’ to a whole new level.
Source: Big Think

Sloan Kettering’s cozy deal with start-up ignites a new uproar

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York has taken an equity stake in Paige AI, a new company planning to apply artificial intelligence to health care. A member of the cancer center’s executive board, the chairman of its pathology department, and the head of one of its research laboratories also have a stake in the new venture. Paige AI has an exclusive deal to use the center’s archive of 25 million patient tissue slides. The apparent conflicts of interest has raised questions and the chief medical officer of Memorial Sloan Kettering has resigned.
Source: Early story New York Times and update New York Times

How companies can plan for accidental discoveries

While this article is not about ‘omics or even about science the idea that we need to be open to surprises and new ideas applies across business, non-profit, and research. We all need to realise that “.. while you cannot schedule innovation, you certainly can organize for it - and against it,” says an Associate Professor of Business at the University of Alberta.
Source: U of A Folio

Brexit no-deal factsheet

Sir Venki Ramakrishan, President of the Royal Society in the UK said, “If science loses, everyone loses”. The Society has been saying for some time that science research will be seriously affected with or without a Brexit deal and has prepared a factsheet about some of the no-deal consequences.
Source: Royal Society

Blockchain genomics startup wants to make you money with your DNA

Sequencing is becoming a big business thanks to rapidly declining costs of the technology. Some predictions says the market will grow from $4.15 billion in 2016 to $15.9 billion by 2025. London-based blockchain start-up Genomes.io wants to take part in that growth by sequencing and then securely storing full genome sequences using blockchain technology. After storing the sequence information with Genomes.io, consumers will be able to selectively grant access for research, clinical, or personal use.
Source: Forbes

Feature: Gene Editing News Up arrow

Gene editing wipes out mosquitoes in the lab

It works in the lab, now to see if it works in the less controlled world outside. Scientists at Imperial College London have used gene editing technology to eliminate populations of the malaria-carrying mosquito Anopheles gambiae.
Source: BBC

And if it becomes a technique used extensively in the environment, what would happen if mosquitoes were to disappear? The Atlantic tried to answer that question.

Papers & Features Up arrow

Newborns’ first gut bacteria may have lasting effect on ability to fight chronic diseases, study shows

Martínez, Inés et al. eLife (2018) doi: 10.7554/eLife.36521

A team led by University of Alberta microbial ecologist Jens Walter suggest that when we acquire our first microorganisms after birth and even in what order those microorganisms are acquired has a lasting impact on our gut microbiome as we mature. The findings could eventually allow doctors to establish beneficial gut bacteria in infants right after birth. Read the paper in eLifeSciences Publications.
Source: Folio and Biotechnology Focus

Regional variation limits applications of healthy gut microbiome reference ranges and disease models

He, Yan, et al. Nature Medicine (2018) doi: 10.1038/s41591-018-0164-x

In a study of 7,000 people in China, researchers found that geographic location explained the greatest amount variation in gut microbiota. While changes in the gut microbiome can be a biomarker for disease, the findings raises the possibility that we might need different models based on where people live.
Source: Nature (you’ll need full access)

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.

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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