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August 1, 2017

Volume 31 Issue 3


Welcome to GenOmics!

We cover the latest Genomics news that matters most to Alberta, Canada and the World. The Genome Alberta newsletter for the Omics Generation

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In This Issue
Genomics Enterprise News Up arrow

Stories that we think will be relevant to Canadian genomics community. If you have anything you’d like to see highlighted here, drop a note to info@genomealberta.ca.

Government of Canada invests in research to reduce methane gas emissions in cattle

Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence and Member of Parliament (Calgary Centre) Kent Hehr announced a $1.1 million investment with the University of Lethbridge to study ways to reduce methane gas emissions in cattle. Researchers will investigate whether the use of the feed supplement biochar, improves the efficiency of digestion and reduces the amount of methane gas produced in beef cattle. Dr. Erasmus Okine, University of Lethbridge vice-president (Research), is principal investigator on the study.

The project is one of 20 new research projects supported by the $27 million Agricultural Greenhouse Gases Program, a partnership with universities and conservation groups across Canada. The program supports research into greenhouse gas mitigation practices and technologies that can be adopted on the farm.

Tell your MP to fully implement the Naylor Report recommendations

That is the headline for the Evidence for Democracy campaign to get the recommendations in Canada’s Fundamental Science Review implemented. Better known as the Naylor Report, it sets out a multi-year agenda to increase the country’s research capacity and raise Canada’s research profile in the world. Evidence for Democracy is trying to build support with a letter and email writing campaign and the organization’s site has templates and ideas, and is building an email list to keep people update on developments.

New genomics project aims to prevent adverse drug reactions in children

Modern pharmaceuticals have had an important impact on healthcare, people’s well-being, life span, and quality of life but many medications come with side effects.

In an effort to reduce severe drug reaction in Canada, researchers at the University of British Columbia and the BC Children’s Hospital Research Institute have partnered with Dynacare, a health and wellness solutions subsidiary of LabCorp. This joint project, valued at $3 million in funding through Genome Canada’s Genomic Applications Partnership Program and Genome British Columbia, will work toward integrating pediatric pharmacogenomic testing into the Canadian health care system.

You can find the complete media release on the Genome BC website.

Genome BC funded research helping to characterize salmon’s ability to adapt to climate change

Researchers are set to investigate whether salmon populations are undergoing genetic adaptation to environmental changes. The team will use genomic tools and analysis of the stickleback to develop an inventory of adaptive genetic variation in wild Chinook salmon. This work will establish a baseline for tracking past and future genetic changes in Chinook salmon and other salmonid species.

The project is funded through Genome BC’s Sector Innovation Program.

Ontario is recruiting its first Chief Scientist

The Chief Scientist will advise on the long term vision and strategic research agenda for Ontario and provide scientific expertise on a range of provincewide issues including the aging population, transformative technologies and climate change. They will also work to ensure the province remains a top destination for global research talent and help advance Ontario's reputation as a jurisdiction that believes investing in knowledge and science is the key to success and economic prosperity.

An announcement is expected in the fall and if you want more information you can read the news release.

Latest edition of MetaboNews

This newsletter is published in partnership between The Metabolomics Innovation Centre (TMIC) and the international Metabolomics Society, and is intended to keep metabolomics researchers and other professionals informed about new technologies, software, databases, events, job postings, conferences, training opportunities, interviews, publications, awards, and other newsworthy items concerning metabolomics.

The August edition is now online.

Trending Stories Up arrow

Here is what trended online and in print with our science community over the last 2 weeks. These are not ‘official’ trends but are based on the stories we see most often in our media monitoring reports and our social media reports.

Enjoy the material, and feel free to offer some feedback on the story selection.

Money talks: stem cell clinic ads mushrooming in mainstream media

Splashy ads complete with discount coupons are appearing in U.S. mainstream media as a way to get more people to lay down their money for stem cell cures. Most of the clinics do not have FDA approval or proven therapies, yet the ads are more common, and more people are seeking risky treatments for their illness. Health News Review also picked up on a Knoepfler post and added their own thoughts on the story.

This is one of those stories that is trending across a small part of online and mainstream media but is about an issue with a big impact because stem cell therapies should not be a case of buyer beware. For instance the San Diego Union-Tribune noted that the NIH ClinicalTrial.gov website which lists public and private clinical studies does not vet the studies. Leigh Turner from the University of Minnesota says the studies need to be better screened to protect patients from “dubious” trials and Wired magazine said the site and lack of diligent screening amounts to free advertising for untested therapies and clinics. Many of the clinics are pay-to-participate clinics with very high fees to participate in these clinical “trials” says Forbes magazine. Changes maybe in the works though as Ars Technica is reporting that the FDA is revising its guidance on stem cell treatments that will result in better oversight.

For his efforts that got this story trending in the last couple of weeks, bioethicist Leigh Turner is being threatened with legal action by The Kimera Society, one of the organizations mentioned in the paper. And this JUST in…. If you click the link for the Kimera Society you get a ‘website expired’ page. Public pressure or a temporary glitch?


Report of the first gene-edited human embryos in the US

At the time we were preparing our newsletter there were reports that a U.S. researcher has used CRISPR technology to alter a human embryo. The reports are not coming from a scientific journal but are appearing in general media outlets including an MIT Technology Review story by UK freelancer journalist Steve Connor who also wrote the story in the UK iNewspaper. It was published in the tabloid under the headline “World exclusive: human embryos genetically altered for first time with new technology”.

The Center for Genetics and Society was quick to respond saying the news “underscores the need for stronger policy protections against engineering the genes of future children and generations”.

Without a scientific paper to work from many news sources have been doing what they can to report on the story. STAT said the procedure was done “apparently with few mistakes” and CBC started off with a Thomson Reuters version of the story. Though it didn’t link it directly with the CRISPR edited embryo development, Ontario Today with Rita Celli did a feature story on gene editing that offered some timely perspective on the technology. There is also a phone-in component to the hour long program so you can hear what the public thinks about the subject.

Alberta Epigenetics Network News Up arrow

Max Planck researchers prove that we inherit more than just genes

We are more than the sum of our genes. Researchers from Max-Planck-Gesellschaft now have robust evidence that not only the inherited DNA itself but also the inherited epigenetic instructions contribute in regulating gene expression in the offspring. Read the complete media release and the original paper.
Source: Science

University of Calgary awarded a new Canada Research Chair in Brain Cancer Epigenomics

A University of Calgary researcher is working on the puzzle that has prevented oncologists from treating fatal brain cancers. Marco Gallo, PhD, is taking an innovative approach to understanding how these cancers function by looking — not at the DNA of the cell but instead at the DNA’s scaffolding or epigenome. His work was featured recently in the University of Calgary’s UToday.
Source: UToday

Epigenetics regulates binge eating

A new study published in Cell Metabolism has shown that a mother’s stress level when she’s pregnant could make her female offspring more likely to engage in binge eating when they grow up. Certain foods might help alleviate or extinguish binge eating behavior. The mice study from Weizmann Institute in Israel and the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry in Munich is the first one to connect the molecular mechanisms underlying binge eating with stress, which thus far has been a supposition. Stress stimuli during 3rd trimester of pregnancy resulted in epigenetic marks in the offspring. When exposed to stress, the offspring would indulge in binge eating and not under normal circumstances.
Source: Cell Metabolism

The epigenetics of flu

With the flu season comes sore throat, fever, muscle aches, malaise etc., which do not seem to go away. With all the antibiotics in use, the virus outsmarts (literally) the host defense systems (and the physicians) and can also jump host species. Bird flu, swine flu, and human seasonal flu are strains of the same H1N1 virus. The virus employs epigenetics to overcome host defenses through use of host transcription and epigenetic factors to regulate its own gene expression as well as that of the host. Host cells also tend to use similar transcription and epigenetic factors to eliminate offending viruses. Viral genetic adaptations to host antibodies makes the virus unrecognizable by the host defense, which is known as antigenic drift. However, in most cases the flu virus goes unnoticed as it tricks host defense by producing a human histone mimicking protein that allows it to control and regulate (block) the host antiviral gene function. Histones are epigenetic regulators of gene expression that provide scaffolding to protein complexes in a cell. A better understanding of these epigenetic regulations of host immune system can help produce therapeutics to treat infections.

Epigenetic shampoo?

Seriously – it’s out there. “The first Epigenetic Shampoo specialized in Sensitive or Atopic Skins capable of calming, improving and moisturizing the scalp at the same time as its epigenetic action, stimulate hair growth and improve its quality.”
Source: Nuggela & Sulé

Genomics in Society Up arrow

To get your latest full version of Genomics in Society news, visit genomealberta.ca/newsletters
You can subscribe to receive your bi-monthly edition direct to your email, cancel a subscription, and view all of our back issues.

Federal minister says GM salmon project for P.E.I. requires assessment

Environment Minister Catherine McKenna says any plan by AquaBounty Technologies to grow its AquAdvantage salmon at Rollo Bay, P.E.I., would be subject to strict requirements. AquaBounty's AquAdvantage salmon contains genetic material from ocean pout and Chinook salmon and is intended to grow to adult size quicker than conventional Atlantic salmon.
Source: MetroNews

LISTEN: Patient driven research

Dr. Braden Manns, a professor of Medicine and Health Economics at the University of Calgary, talks about the concept of "patient-driven" research in this 5 minute interview.

How science can survive hostile governments

Government attitudes towards science vary by country and over time, but the science community has learned how to build support for its work. We saw it here in Canada a decade ago, Australia eliminated the science advisor position in 2013, and now the U.S. is experiencing an administration that tends to ignore scientific evidence. A paper in Conservation Biology looks at some of these uneasy relationships between science and government actions. Katie Gibbs, the executive director of Canadian-based Evidence for Democracy is one of the paper’s authors and is featured in this article from The Atlantic.
Source: The Atlantic

LISTEN: UK Biobank makes available vast trove of genetics information

The UK Biobank is a unique long term study of human health. The project has released genetic data on half a million Britons to approved researchers and the Biobank believes it is the single largest release of a genetic dataset in terms of number of individuals genotyped. This 23 minute podcast covers the project in general, and about the specific release of the information.
Source: UK Biobank

And on the Alberta biobank news front: Biobank regulations could give Alberta researchers a leg up

Events Up arrow

Genome Alberta has an extensive Events Calendar on our website. Visit GenomeAlberta.ca to see all the events, and sign up for our newsletters while you're there!

Slime molds are Way Cool because . . .

For a critter with no brain or organs, slime mold is capable of some pretty astonishing things. Most of the time they invisibly hunt bacteria in the soil. But when food runs out single cells stream together into a slimy multicellular mass.

Alex Chattwood, former UBC scientist and current Education Manager of the Geneskool outreach program at Genome BC, will take you on an interactive tour into the world of slime molds. Alex will use live demonstrations to illustrate how his favourite slime mold, Dictyostelium discoideum, goes from a solitary to social existence and explain how researchers use it to explore questions related to human biology.

When: August 6, 2017 1-2pm
Where: Beaty Biodiversity Museum, Vancouver BC

Free with museum admission or membership.
Learn more here

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.

Epigenetics 2017

The 7th Epigenetics Australian Scientific Conference presented by the Australian Epigenetics Alliance is coming to Brisbane.

Themes include:
  • Epigenetic Therapies and Biomarkers
  • Development and Inheritance
  • Epigenetic Mechanisms
  • Functional Epigenomics
  • Epigenetics and Disease
When: October 29 – November 1
Where: Brisbane, Australia

For more information and to register visit the conference 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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