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December 15, 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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Scientific evidence for personalized nutrition: Ethical implications of methodological limitations

Nutritional genomics could help tailoring diet to a person’s genotype but the science is not complete or well tested there is also limited evidence that diet advice based on genetics will change behaviour. Nevertheless there are companies offering genetics testing and dietary advice based on this incomplete science and not being transparent about the validity of the conclusions.
This is a slide deck from Cecile Janssen who is in the Emory University department of Epidemiology at the Rollins School of Public Health.
Source: Cecile Janssens

Gaming to inspire future generations of health scientists

A team of researchers – supported by a $1.3 million grant from NIH – is developing an online adventure game designed to inspire future generations to pursue health-related careers.
Source: NC State News

DNA from Vancouver belugas helps researchers sequence genome

When beluga whales Qila and Aurora became ill in 2016 Steven Jones from the Michael Smith Genome Sciences Centre suggested genomics might help the Aquarium’s veterinary team discover what was causing their illness. They ultimately collected enough DNA to sequence the complete beluga genome. The Genome BC-funded research has been published in the journal Genes. Dr. Jones, head of Bioinformatics at the GSC, led the research with colleagues from the University of British Columbia and Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
Source: Global News

Antibiotic use in food animals poses risk to public health

The administration of antibiotics to food animals contributes to the emergence of drug-resistant bacteria, and ultimately is one of the factors that leads to worse public health outcomes. This Issue Brief from the PEW Charitable Trusts says it is important to ensure antibiotics are used judiciously. The article includes related material on relevant studies and a fact sheet.
Source: PEW Charitable Trusts

Google taught an AI that sorts cat photos to analyze DNA

Last week Google is released the latest version of DeepVariant which is a neural network able to identify mutations in DNA sequences. Outside researchers can use DeepVariant and even tinker with its code, which the company has published as open-source software. It isn’t likely to change genetics research – yet – but it does show what AI can do in the field.
Source: The Atlantic

Scientists shape DNA into doughnuts, teddy bears, and an image of the Mona Lisa

DNA origami first appeared in the eighties but new techniques can make bigger objects which could lead to novel devices for electronics, nanoscale machines, and disease detection.
Source: Science Magazine

It's time for science and academia to address sexual misconduct

We mentioned the “leaky pipeline” in our last GenOmics newsletter. That is the situation where a disproportionate number of women leave their scientific and academic careers – often because of instances of sexual harassment. The authors of this article suggest we are “long overdue for a reckoning”.
Source: Scientific American

Stem cells meet AI in quest to mass-produce key disease fighters

Producing transplantable stem cells is a slow process but the Centre for Commercialization of Regenerative Medicine in Toronto wants to change that. CCRM and General Electric Co.’s health division have set up a lab in Toronto to develop the technology needed to lead the effort to mass produce stem cell.
Source: Bloomberg

Alzheimer’s is a whole-body problem, key protein identified, real-time study of astronauts and more

Stories from the Universities of British Columbia, Guelph, and Toronto are featured in this 10 minute podcast episode hosted by Michelle Currie.
Source: Biotechnology Focus

Listen: Battling the superbugs

Resistance is futile when it comes to killing of antimicrobial resistance. The best we can do right now is slow it down and prevent transmission. We’ve seen the problem coming since 1945 and we are still scrambling to deal with it and you’ll hear about some of the latest developments in this 22 minute audio podcast.
Source: Wall Street Journal

The great "non-GMO" deception: How to sell politically correct chocolate chip cookies

Fat free, sugar free, low sodium, and now “Non-GMO” is the new way to market food products. This article suggest that when it comes to using GMO as the latest food villain, companies don’t seem to be held back by even the “ethics of half-truth”.
Source: Forbes Magazine

The last Tasmanian tiger died in 1936. Can mapping its genome help bring it back?

If humans are responsible for driving a species to extinction, is there an obligation to bring it back if technology makes it possible? A preserved female cub made it possible to map the genetic sequence of the extinct marsupial, and now there are discussions around reviving the species.
Source: National Post

First Irish genetic map reveals a ‘sink’ of Celtic ancestry

A researcher team led by the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland and the Genealogical Society of Ireland has helped to construct the first genetic map of the people of Ireland. The Irish DNA Atlas was compiled from DNA samples of almost 200 individuals with four generations of ancestry linked to specific areas.
Source: Silicon Republic

Genetic sequencing is the future of medicine

What we know about rewriting our genetic code is dwarfed by what we still need understand if we are going to be able to correct genetic diseases, says Craig Venter.
Source: Washington Post

Canola oil causes Alzheimer's? How the media mis-covers science, feeds NGO misinformation and scares the public

We’re not sure if “miscovers” is actually a word but the point is still made in this post by Kevin Folta. He follows a study in Nature Scientific Reports through to the original media release and on to the popular media stories.
Source: Genetic Literacy Project

Virus supply vexes gene therapy developers, CMOs

The supply of viruses used in gene therapies is falling behind the demand. The cost of producing a sufficient and reliable supply is holding back the development of some therapies.
Source: GenEngNews

Loss of net neutrality could harm research

The Federal Communications Commission in the U.S. has voted to repeal its net neutrality rules which opens the door for a multi-speed, and multi-level pay structure for Internet access. That could leave science to use the slow lane or pay to get premium access – but no one is really sure.
Source: Nature

Feature: Gene Editing News Up arrow

Time for a tailor?

Funding from Genome Canada and Genome Quebec has helped a research team show the importance of adapting gene-editing tools to an individual patient’s genome. The findings were published last month in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and suggest that individual genetic differences may either reduce the value of gene editing or even cause dangerous off-target effects.
Source: Harvard Medical School

Turning piglets into personalized avatars for sick kids

Serendipity, mini-pigs, and hope for kids with an incurable inherited disease come together in this story about scientists using CRISPR to speed up research into neurofibromatosis type 1.
Source: The Atlantic

If CRISPR is so amazing, why can't we edit human genes yet?

Five years after becoming a regular topic in the mainstream media CRISPR technology has not become part of clinical practice notes this story from Australia. It is a follow up to the previous story about off-target effects in this section about of our newsletter and offers a good explanation of the problem and promise that comes with CRISPR.
Source: ABC

CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing can be used to eliminate entire chromosomes

In this Q&A, Hui Yang from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, discusses his research published in Genome Biology, using CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing techniques to delete entire chromosomes
Source: On Medicine

Papers & Features Up arrow

A synthetic biology approach to integrative high school STEM training

Sutherland Dubé et al., Nature Biotechnology (2017) doi:10.1038/nbt.3896

Synthetic biology–based group activities provide opportunities for integrative STEM training and literacy, while lowering barriers for high school students to become interested in science careers.
Source: Nature Biotechnology

Age and perceived risks and benefits of preventive genomic screening

Margaret Waltz MS, CGC, et al. Genetics in Medicine (2017) doi:10.1038/gim.2017.206

As genome sequencing moves from research to clinical practice, sequencing technologies focused on “medically actionable” targets are being promoted for preventive screening despite the dearth of systematic evidence of risks and benefits and of criteria for selection of screening subjects. This study investigates researchers’ and research participants’ perceptions of these issues within the context of a preventive genomic screening study, GeneScreen.
Source: Genetics in Medicine

CRISPR/Cas9-mediated targeted chromosome elimination

Erwei Zuo et al., Genome Biology (2017) doi: 10.1186/s13059-017-1354-4

The CRISPR/Cas9 system has become an efficient gene editing method for generating cells carrying precise gene mutations, including the rearrangement and deletion of chromosomal segments. However, whether an entire chromosome could be eliminated by this technology is still unknown.
Source: Genome Biology

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.

The Plant and Animal Genome XXVI Conference

The Plant and Animal Genome XXVI Conference (PAG) is designed to provide a forum on recent developments and future plans for plant and animal genome projects. Consisting of technical presentations, poster sessions, exhibits and workshops, the conference is an excellent opportunity to exchange ideas and applications on this internationally important project.

Genome Alberta and the other Genome Centres will be well represented; we look forward to seeing everyone there!

When: January 13-17, 2018
Where: San Diego, California

Register here by January 12, 2018 to reserve your spot at the conference!

Learn more.

Access to Innovation 2018

Join us at the 3rd annual Access to Innovation Conference. BDC Capital joins as co-presenter this year, following on the success of the first-ever Canadian Corporate Innovation Summit: www.ccisummit.ca.

  • To understand the challenges and explore a variety of solutions to move life sciences innovation forward.
  • Hear about the need to engage in innovation and how it will affect your organization by leveraging talent and technology across the country.
  • Meet with the different stakeholders, and learn the many ways to engage with Canada’s wide innovation ecosystem.

Among the many speakers is Karen Wichuk, Executive Lead, Health City Edmonton, an initiative driving health innovation in Alberta.

When: January 17, 2018 @ 8:00 AM - January 18, 2018 @ 5:00 PM
Where: Vancouver Convention Centre

To register, visit the Conference webpage.

DOE JGI Genomics of Energy & Environment Meeting

Any and all researchers and students pursuing frontier energy and environmental genomics research are welcome! Also, all current JGI Community Science Program (CSP) users, as well as investigators considering an application for future CSP calls.

Running parallel with the Meeting, the JGI will be hosting the first ever Viral EcoGenomics and Applications (VEGA) Symposium – Big data approaches to help characterize earth’s Virome. The goals of the one and a half day symposium are to bring together a “viral ecogenomics” community, i.e. experts of viral/phage genetics, structure, ecology, evolution, and (meta)genomics, to foster discussions centered on how to best capture and characterize uncultivated viruses, understand the role of viruses in natural ecosystems, and functionally explore viral genetic diversity.

When: March 13 - 16, 2018
Where: Hilton San Francisco in Union Square

For more information or to register, please visit the meeting website.

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