Race in medicine

Biopolitical Times, an online publication of the Center for Genetics and Society, rekindled the debate over race with a recent commentary by Jessica Cussins on the value of the concept in medicine. Although not as biased in its coverage of genetics as anti-biotech campaigners and such groups as the ill-named Council for Responsible Genetics, it is known for its selective analysis of hot button genetics issues, the validity of the race concept among them.

Zombie alert? Male DNA found in women’s brains might prevent disease

Male DNA found in the brains of women appears to have come from male fetuses they carried when pregnant, and it may have both positive and negative effects, including the prevention of disease. Researchers believe that DNA from male and female fetuses might cross into mothers’ genes.

Storm over GM maize study worsens

THOSE who hoped the study would go away will be disappointed. Claims that eating genetically modified maize gives rats tumours have provoked a storm in Europe.

Reverse aging? Scientists find way to make old muscles young again with proteins and stem cells

It is a dream for everyone as they grow older to turn back the clock and live in a younger body once again. While many have developed ways to make the body look younger cosmetically, there have been very few effective methods to combat the aging process within the body – until now.

For the first time ever, researchers have identified a crucial protein responsible for the decline of muscle repair and agility as the body ages. Upon this discovery, the scientists were able to effectively halt muscle decline in mice, giving hope to similar treatments for humans in the future.

Mayo Clinic finds way to weed out problem stem cells, making therapy safer

Mayo Clinic researchers have found a way to detect and eliminate potentially troublemaking stem cells to make stem cell therapy safer. Induced Pluripotent Stem cells, also known as iPS cells, are bioengineered from adult tissues to have properties of embryonic stem cells, which have the unlimited capacity to differentiate and grow into any desired types of cells, such as skin, brain, lung and heart cells. However, during the differentiation process, some residual pluripotent or embryonic-like cells may remain and cause them to grow into tumors.

Genomics create opportunities for dairy farmers

The advent of genomics has certainly played a heavy role in today’s popular genetics. Screening for elite males and females has become more exact and has rapidly driven genetic progress far beyond anyone’s wildest expectations in a relatively short period of time. While genomic technology currently holds its greatest stakes within elite dairy cattlebreeding programs, many commercial dairy operations are finding tremendous value and return on investment (ROI) in mass genomic screening.

Labelling law for GMOs in Thailand produce

In the U.S. over eighty per cent of the soybeans, corn, and canola grown in the U.S. are Genetically Modified Organisms or GMO. Recently, Aphaluck Bhatiasevi wrote about some of the name brands that use GMO. Nestle baby food, Good Time instant cereal, Knorr cup soup, Nissin cup noodle, Lay’s Stax potato chips, Pringles snacks,

Europe’s GM food fears reignited over controversial GM study

A recent French study claiming rats fed genetically modified corn suffered tumours has reignited Europe’s fears over GM food. Despite much scepticism over the quality of the research, opponents of GM say an urgent review of the EU’s current policy is needed.

Researchers plan whole-genome sequencing of hantavirus in public health study

California researchers and public health officials have launched what they describe as a groundbreaking series of studies of a rare mouse-borne virus that has infected at least nine Yosemite National Park visitors, killing three of them, since June.

By using the 1,200-square-mile (3,100-square-km) park and its rodent and human populations as a giant natural laboratory, scientists hope to gain new insights into how hantavirus is transmitted, how varied it might be and why certain people seem more susceptible than others.

Study shows stem cells may prevent and cure Alzheimer’s

In the first study of its kind, researchers at Korea’s leading university and the RNL Bio Stem Cell Technology Institute announced this week the results of a study that suggests an astounding possibility: adult stem cells may not only have a positive effect on those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, they can prevent the disease. Using fat-derived adult stem cells from humans [scientific term: adMSCs, or human, adipose-derived mesenchymal stem cells], researchers were able to cause Alzheimer’s disease brains in animal models to regenerate. The researchers, for the first time in history, used stem cells to identify the mechanism that is key to treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, and demonstrated how to achieve efficacy as well as prevention of the symptoms of Alzheimer’s with adult stem cells, a “holy grail” of biomedical scientists for decades.

UK: Modern genetics applied to 19th century potatoes

Researchers led by Professor Bruce Fitt, now at the University of Hertfordshire, have used modern DNA techniques on late nineteenth-century potatoes to show how the potato blight may have survived between cropping seasons after the Irish potato famine of the 1840s.

Scientists smell a rat in fraudulent genetic engineering study

Last week French microbiologist Gilles-Eric Séralini and several colleagues released the results of a long-term study in which rats were fed genetically engineered (AKA genetically modified, or “GM”) corn that contains enhanced resistance to insects and/or the herbicide glyphosate. They took the unprecedented step of pre-releasing the paper to selected media outlets under an embargo on the condition that they sign a non-disclosure agreement. (That prevented the journalists from seeking scientific experts’ opinions on the article.) At a carefully orchestrated media event they then announced that their long-term studies found that the rats in experimental groups developed tumors at an alarming rate. Within hours news of their “discovery” echoed around the world. As we say today, the story “went viral.”

New GM African cassava resists devastating viruses

Plant scientists at ETH Zurich have developed a new African cassava preferred by consumers and farmers that is resistant to the two major virus diseases in Africa. Now they want to test the resistant cassava in Africa.

Stem cells to shrink wrinkles?

Scientists are working on a new weapon in the war against wrinkles – injecting the patient’s own stem cells to restore the skin’s elasticity.

Study shows steps to isolate stem cells from brain tumors

A new video protocol in Journal of Visualized Experiments (JoVE) details an assay to identify brain tumor initiating stem cells from primary brain tumors. Through flow cytometry, scientists separate stem cells from the rest of the tumor, allowing quick and efficient analysis of target cells. This approach has been effectively used to identify similar stem cells in leukemia patients.

Mouse pancreatic stem cells successfully differentiate into insulin producing cells

In a study to investigate how transplanted islet cells can differentiate and mature into insulin-producing pancreatic cells, a team of Japanese researchers found that using a specific set of transcription factors (proteins that bind to specific DNA sequences) could be transduced into mouse pancreatic stem cells (mPSCs) using Sendai virus (SeV), a mouse influenza virus, as a carrier, or vector. The study is published in a recent issue of Cell Medicine [3(1)], now freely available on-line.

Genomic analysis of E coli shows multiple steps to evolve new trait

Several years ago researchers at Michigan State University (MSU) reported discovering a novel, evolutionary trait in a long-studied population of Escherichia coli, a rod-shaped bacterium commonly found in the lower intestine of mammals. The E. coli added a helping of citrate to its traditional diet of glucose, even though other E. coli can’t consume citrate in the presence of oxygen.

Genetically engineered rice: Protection from arsenic?

In an article this week, Consumer Reports is calling on the Food and Drug Administration to set standards for how much arsenic can be allowed in rice after finding the potential toxin in almost every rice product it tested. At FIU, researchers are working on a new process that could reduce the amount of the contaminant in rice grains.

American Medical Association reiterates support for GM technology

The American Medical Association (AMA) released a statement reiterating its position on genetically modified crops. It continues to recognize the conclusions of the 1987 National Academy of Sciences white paper that (a) There is no evidence that unique hazards exist either in the use of rDNA techniques or in the movement of genes between unrelated organisms; (b) The risks associated with the introduction of rDNA-engineered organisms are the same in kind as those associated with the introduction of unmodified organisms and organisms modified by other methods; (c) Assessment of the risk of introducing rDNA-engineered organisms into the environment should be based on the nature of the organism and the environment into which it is introduced, not on the method by which it was produced.

GMOs and junk science: Pro-GM supporter questions latest study condemning GMOs

In some ways it’s remarkable that Rachel Carson is still controversial, as we’ve been reminded by this month’s 50th anniversary of the publication of Silent Spring. A heroine to many in the 1960s, including President John Kennedy, Carson is credited with igniting, or at least profoundly influencing, what we now think of as the modern environmental movement.

New Zealand may reverse its stance on GMOs

The debate of whether New Zealand should grow genetically modified crops could be shifting away from the anti-GM stance the country has been in for the past few years.

Flawed GM corn study fallout: Russia suspends import of Monsanto corn

In what can only be described as a hysteria-driven reaction, the Russian government has “temporarily” suspended the import of a Monsanto genetically modified corn variety that was the target of a questionable study published last week claiming the GM maize caused tumors in rats. The action came in response to a request by the anti-GM Russian NGO Rospotrebnadzor.

Twin study finds genetics role in personality disorders

A Norwegian study of twins expands the role of genetics in the development of a personality disorder, yet cautions that expression of a disorder depends on a combination of genetic and environmental factors. In the study, experts posited that avoidant and dependent personality disorders are characterized by anxious or fearful traits.

Genome project links breast and ovarian cancers

Scientists announced Sunday that they have finished mapping virtually all of the genetic mutations in breast cancer, an effort that could soon change the way patients are treated and eventually help researchers develop better treatments.

Obesity promotes prostate cancer by altering gene regulation

Prostate cancer is one of the most common cancers in men and early treatment is usually very successful. However, like other cancers, obesity increases the risk of aggressive prostate disease. New research, published in BioMed Central’s open access journal BMC Medicine, finds that the fat surrounding the prostate of overweight or obese men with prostate cancer provides a favorable environment to promote cancer growth.

Eurogenes Genetic Ancestry Project: There’s something very North Eurasian about Indo-European

Recently we learned that Europeans, especially North Europeans, are actually very North Eurasian genetically (see here). Then, last week, scientists studying languages in a similar way to genes discovered deep affinities between Indo-European, Uralic and Altaic languages. Below are a couple of figures from that study, and I have to say they look amazing, because it seems they match my experiments with the ADMIXTURE software in trying to elucidate the peopling of Europe and the origins of the Indo-Europeans.

Does GM corn cause cancer? A flawed study fails to convince

Last week a scientific paper appeared that reported that eating genetically modified (GM) corn causes cancer in rats. Specifically, the scientists fed Roundup Ready® corn, or maize, to rats for two years, and reported that both females and males developed cancer and died at higher rates than controls.

Whole Foods endorses genetically modified food labeling measure

Whole Foods Market, the upscale seller of organic products and other “natural” foods, has endorsed a California initiative that would require the labeling of genetically engineered food ingredients.

The Austin, Texas, company said it’s backing Proposition 37 on the November ballot “because it has long believed its customers have the right to know how their food is produced.”

Researchers engineer novel DNA barcode

Much like the checkout clerk uses a machine that scans the barcodes on packages to identify what customers bought at the store, scientists use powerful microscopes and their own kinds of barcodes to help them identify various parts of a cell, or types of molecules at a disease site. But their barcodes only come in a handful of “styles,” limiting the number of objects scientists can study in a cell sample at any one time.

Human brain atlas, revealing genetic activity in 3D, published online

The first detailed maps of genetic activity in the human brain have been published online by scientists. This freely accessible resource shows that the expression of genes across adult human brains is largely similar from one individual to the next, with only a few notable differences.

Khoe-San people represent earliest branch off human family tree

The Khoe-San people of southern Africa have been recognised as one of the earliest-formed distinct human genetic groups for several years now, but new research appears to peg them as the earliest split from the main human family tree so far discovered.

GM crops may not resolve food crisis, scientists say

Genetically modified (GM) crops have so far been promoted as the ‘breakthrough’ technology that will help resolve food insecurity in India. But a group of prominent agricultural scientists, who addressed the media on Monday in Delhi, said that GM crops may not help feed India’s booming population. They suggested that India use a mix of ecological farming, supported by conventional breeding and make optimum use of local knowledge and natural resources instead.

Genetic Literacy Project cited in Maui debate over GM labeling

Are genetically engineered food products safe? And, should such products be labeled to give consumers informed choices? Those questions hung over the Council Chambers on Friday as Maui County Council members heard sometimes emotional testimony, mostly in favor of requiring the labeling of food with genetically modified organisms, also known as GMOs.

Media manipulation by anti-GM scientists and NGOs

The controversial study purportedly documenting the dangers of GM corn continues to come under fire–not from industry critics but from scientists and journalists, many associated with the political left. The latest salvo was fired by Knight’s Deborah Blum, who summarizes the overwhelming view the “the study authors appear to have practiced some very questionable science and some – and cynical – manipulation of the science media.

Scientists create map of human brain

A comprehensive atlas of the adult human brain that reveals the activity of genes across the entire organ has been created by scientists.

The map was created from genetic analyses of about 900 specific parts of two “clinically unremarkable” brains donated by a 24-year-old and 39-year-old man, and half a brain from a third man.

How do organisms evolve?

A team of researchers at Michigan State University has documented the step-by-step process in which organisms evolve new functions.

The results, published in the current issue of Nature, are revealed through an in-depth, genomics-based analysis that decodes how E. coli bacteria figured out how to supplement a traditional diet of glucose with an extra course of citrate.

Noted European scientist defends embattled maize GM study

Scientists have hit back against the criticism levelled at the research linking the world’s best-selling weedkiller and a strain of GM maize – both developed by Monsanto – with tumours, multiple organ damage and premature death in rats.

India: Parliamentary panel seeks stopping of trials of GM seeds

A Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture, which examined in detail the prospects and effects of cultivating genetically modified food crops, sought stopping of ongoing field trials of GM seeds in various states in view of unclear ramifications of transgenic crops on biodiversity, environment, human and livestock health.

Scientists use genetics, climate reconstructions to track global spread of modern humans out of Africa

Research indicates the out-of-Africa spread of humans was dictated by the appearance of favourable climatic windows. By integrating genetics with high resolution historical climate reconstructions, scientists have been able to predict the timing and routes taken by modern humans during their expansion out of Africa. Their research reveals that the spread of humans out of Africa was dictated by climate, with their entry into Europe possibly delayed by competition with Neanderthals. The research is published today, 17 September, in the journal PNAS. Dr Anders Eriksson, from the University of Cambridge, the lead author of the paper said: “By combining extensive genetic information with climate and vegetation models, we were able to build the most detailed reconstruction of human history so far.”

Health and safety of GM foods

The battle lines are firming in the debate between the mainstream science community and anti-GM activists about the safety and health of GM foods. The latest salvo came from France, where a team led by Greenpeace-funded scientist Gilles-Eric Seralini of the University of Caen said they found that rats fed a diet containing a seed

Genetic screens—what’s the prognosis?

Sequencing the whole genome could provide a medical early warning on a previously unknown scale – but could it also bring dilemmas?

The price for whole genome sequencing is dropping sharply and is now under $1000—the issue discussed in the Science Online NYC/Nature.com/Ars Technica roundtable recently held in NYC . A few years ago, only a handful of labs had access to sequencing technology, but now such technology is almost ubiquitous. The $1,000 genome, while it has been talked about for a long time, will simply be a point on the way to a $100 genome or a $10 genome, “and finally to the point where the value of the information generated is far more important, scientifically and commercially, than the cost of generation.

What does the $1000 genome mean for you?

The cost of genome sequencing is starting to sink into the affordable range. Should you save up and get one? Can it really tell you anything meaningful at all? Who is going to sift through all the information your genome represents — and how will they do it?

Ethics of fetal gene tests

Sequencing the whole genome of a fetus could provide a medical early warning on a previously unknown scale – but could it also bring dilemmas?

Genomic studies find all humans did not originate in East Africa

The largest study of genetic variance across present-day populations in southern Africa suggests that there is no single place in Africa from which all modern humans emerged. Instead, our species is the result of mixing between numerous early human populations across a vast area.

Using race in medicine

Racial categories are currently ubiquitous in medicine and medical research. How are these categories determined? Is there uniformity from one study to another?

Siberian discovery could bring scientists closer to cloning Woolly Mammoth

The key to cloning a woolly mammoth may be locked into the Siberian permafrost.

At least, that’s what scientists in the blustery Russian tundra are hoping. An international team from Russia’s North-Eastern Federal University recently found well-preserved remains, including some fur and bone marrow, during a paleontological research trip in the northeastern province of Yakutia.

Spain: Genetic study will help produce better quality melons

Producing better quality melons with guaranteed results before planting; this will be possible thanks to the “Melonomics” project, involving several research institutions from Castilla-La Mancha, Spain, which previously sequenced this fruit’s genome.

Diseases of aging map to a few ‘hotspots’ on the human genome

Researchers have long known that individual diseases are associated with genes in specific locations of the genome. Genetics researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill now have shown definitively that a small number of places in the human genome are associated with a large number and variety of diseases. In particular, several diseases of aging are associated with a locus which is more famous for its role in preventing cancer.

The Bushmen tell us a lot about human evolution and genetics

When it comes to the human genetics of the Khoe-San there’s a little that’s stale and unoriginal for me in terms of presentation. The elements are always composed the same. The Bushmen are the “most ancient” humans, who can tell us something about “our past,” about “our evolution.” Tried & tested banalities just bubble forth unbidden. I have no idea why. There’s a new paper in Science on the genetics of the Khoe-San, which includes Bushmen, which brought to mind this issue for me because of the outrageous nature of the press releases.

Kenya emerges as hub for bio-tech in east African region

Kenya has emerged as a leader in the development and use of biotechnology in the east and central African region. It was among the first African nations to embrace the use of biotechnology, especially in the agriculture sector.

Growing better poplars for biofuels

It took mankind millennia of painstaking trial and error to breed hardier, healthier food crops.
“We can’t wait that long to develop better crops for biofuels,” says Victor Busov, a plant geneticist at Michigan Technological University’s School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science. “We need to move faster to meet the needs of tomorrow, and the only way we can do that is through knowledge.”

Scientists use genetics, climate reconstructions to track global spread of modern humans out of Africa

Research indicates the out-of-Africa spread of humans was dictated by the appearance of favourable climatic windows. By integrating genetics with high resolution historical climate reconstructions, scientists have been able to predict the timing and routes taken by modern humans during their expansion out of Africa. Their research reveals that the spread of humans out of Africa was dictated by climate, with their entry into Europe possibly delayed by competition with Neanderthals. The research is published today, 17 September, in the journal PNAS. Dr Anders Eriksson, from the University of Cambridge, the lead author of the paper said: “By combining extensive genetic information with climate and vegetation models, we were able to build the most detailed reconstruction of human history so far.”

Scientists savage study purportedly showing health dangers of Monsanto’s GM corn

Are GM foods harmful or nutritionally less beneficial when compared to conventional or organic foods? Scientists and regulators almost universally say “no.” That’s why a study published this week claiming that GM corn causes cancer in rats is creating such a furor. What’s the story behind the story? Jon Entine, executive director of the Genetic Literacy Project, reports.

Stem cells do decline with aging, scientists’ finding confirmed

The ageing process adversely affects the quantity of the bone marrow stem cells, was the finding by the Indo-Japan joint working group of NCRM published in Bone Marrow Research. However, an earlier study by Posvic et al., which had claimed that the stem cells of bone marrow don’t decline with ageing, has been questioned by the NCRM group based on their own findings. The NCRM group has given a thorough explanation reiterating the logic behind their findings, which has been published in the Journal of Gerontology, the official issue of the Gerontological Society of America.

Cord blood-derived stem cells: New therapeutic option for brain disorders?

Stem cell technology has the potential to revolutionize medicine, but the revolution has been considerably slower than expected. Government restrictions and ethical dilemmas have put up roadblocks to fast-paced biological research, and even when these roadblocks are absent, controlling the behavior of stem cells (cells that have the ability to form a number of cell types and tissues) in a petri dish has proved tricky to say the least.

New gene-therapy approach could improve obesity treatment

Medical researchers at the University of Alberta have found a new way of using gene therapy to treat obesity. The treatment was successful, resulting in less weight gain, higher activity levels and decreased insulin resistance in lab models on a high-fat, high-sugar diet. Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry researcher Jason Dyck, who works in the Department of Pediatrics and the Department of Pharmacology, published his findings this week in the peer-reviewed journal Nutrition and Diabetes. His team found a way to deliver the obesity treatment via DNA as opposed to a virus, which has had limited success in the past, especially over the long term. The results they demonstrated corroborated findings by other researchers who conducted short-term studies or used more risky methods of gene delivery.

The case of the GMO papaya: How does it relate to the Prop 37 fight?

Until Californians go to the ballot box on Nov. 6, rhetoric from both supporters and opponents of the state’s Proposition 37 will only continue to intensify. Both viewpoints, however, share some common ground on at least one important point: The best way to persuade members of the voting public is by framing the debate based on what consumers want the most—is it an issue of price, of information, of safety, or of some other characteristic that consumers may weigh when making a purchase?

Zimbabwe urged to lift ban on growing genetically modified food

From poultry products to fish, potatoes to apples, Johnson Moyo, a primary school teacher in Bulawayo, has come to enjoy what many Zimbabweans once considered the finer things in life.

While such foodstuffs might be part of a normal grocery list elsewhere, for Moyo and many poorly paid civil servants like him they were luxuries that have only recently become affordable for the “average man,” as he puts it.

Tanzania embracing genetic engineering

Ministry of Agriculture, Food Security and Co-operatives has started using genetic engineering to ‘modify’ seeds and control diseases that inhibit crop growth.

Organic brands caught In fight over California’s Prop 37 GMO debate

In a particular bind in this fight are the many mainstream food conglomerates that now own organic brands, which by definition don’t include GMOs: Kellogg, owner of GMO poster brand Kashi; General Mills, owner of the Cascadian Farm, Muir Glen, Larabar and Food Should Taste Good brands; Coca-Cola, owner of Odwalla and Honest Tea; PepsiCo; and Dean Foods, owner of Horizon Organics.

GM rice is more than food for thought

The Ministry of Health’s investigation into a controversial US-backed genetically modified rice research project in Hunan province raises a wider set of questions than just the use of GM seeds to increase crop yields, because the researchers are alleged to have fed students GM rice as part of an experiment without their or their parents’ knowledge.

Crop breeding consultant questions GM wheat report

A WA consultant in crop breeding and biotechnology has questioned the credibility of a report that suggests a variety of genetically modified wheat is potentially fatal. The report by a New Zealand genetics lecturer has found humans eating the CSIRO-developed grain could develop a glycogen storage disease which causes liver failure. The GM variety is being trialed in the ACT. The State Government says there are no plans at this stage to trial the crop in WA.

Sorghum eyed as a southern bioenergy crop

Sorghum is an ideal candidate because of its drought tolerance, adaptability to diverse growing conditions, low nitrogen fertilizer requirements, and high biomass (plant material) content, according to molecular biologist Scott Sattler and collaborator Jeff Pedersen with USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS). It also produces soluble sugar that can be converted to biofuel. Residual fibers left over from the juice extraction process also can be burned to generate electricity. Sattler and Pedersen’s studies of sorghum are part of a larger effort by ARS—USDA’s principal intramural scientific research agency—to answer a government mandate calling for the production of up to 36 billion gallons of biofuel by 2022. Approximately 15 billion gallons of that total will come from grain ethanol, with the remaining 21 billion gallons to come from other sources, or “feedstocks,” including sorghum, sugarcane, other grasses like switchgrass, and oilseed crops like rapeseed and soybean.

Genome sequencing of one patient’s tumor could lead to new treatment options

“In mapping the entire genome of a tumor from a patient with advanced bladder cancer, researchers at Memorial Sloan-Kettering have uncovered a genetic weakness that could potentially be targeted with an existing drug. Published in the journal Science on August 21, the findings could lead to new and potent therapies for a subset of patients with the disease.

Stem cells restore hearing in deaf gerbils

In a new study, scientists were able to restore partial hearing to deaf gerbils by implanting human embryonic stem cells in their ears. The breakthrough offers hope that one day a similar treatment may be developed to cure hearing loss in humans.

As drought hits corn, biotech firms see lush field in GMO crops

The worst U.S. drought in half a century is withering the nation’s corn crop, but it’s a fertile opportunity for makers of genetically modified crops.

Agricultural biotechnology companies have been pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into developing plants that can withstand the effects of a prolonged dry spell. Monsanto Co., based in St. Louis, has received regulatory approval for DroughtGard, a corn variety that contains the first genetically modified trait for drought resistance.

India needs GM food crops to boost farm productivity, says GM supporter

It’s important to understand this background of the Left in India and the CPM and its philosophy in particular to appreciate the body blow the party’s leaders are trying to land on the future of India’s agriculture sector and livelihood of farmers. Proletariat-friendly “internationalism” is the creed of this political party, and they are prepared to sacrifice what is India’s national interest and the interest of farmers in the dogmatic pursuit of their ideology.
Last month, Basudev Acharia, CPM Leader in Lok Sabha and chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture, submitted a 500-page report to Parliament supporting an outright ban on field trials of genetically-modified (GM) food crops in India. The report, purportedly prepared with extensive consultations across stakeholders from the scientific, agriculture, business and policy communities, cites “the gross inadequacy of the regulatory mechanism, the total absence of post-release surveillance and monitoring” as reasons for stopping all trials.

GM crops a solution for improving crop yield, say experts

Genetically modified crops are an answer to improve crop yield and help maintain high food production, industry experts have said.

“In a country like India where resources are limited and the burden of the population is growing rapidly, a judicious use of plant biotechnology, after addressing the bio safety issues, can help farmers grow more food on the same amount of land,” Centre for Agricultural Bioscience International ( CABI) Regional Director ( South Asia) Ravi Khetrapal told PTI.

Prenatal information: Ecstasy or agony?

Slate reposts a piece from New Scientist, Do You Really Want To Know Your Baby’s Genetics? It is arranged as a series of questions which might arise from the new information. For me my frustration with this sort of discussion is rooted in reviewing old articles about “test-tube babies” in major newspapers from the 1970s and early 1980s. Today in vitro fertilization is banal and commonplace, but many of the same concerns were voiced back then which you see cropping up now in regards to personal genomics. My issue is not concern as such, but its inchoate character. It is not uncommon for me to encounter people pursuing postgraduate work in science who express the opinion that “it’s scary,” the “it” being genetic information. When further queried the fear is generally layers upon layers of formless disquiet, some confusion about the specific details, as well as a default stance toward the “precautionary principle.”

DNA methylation study finds key to bee destiny

New research published in the journal Nature Neuroscience on September 16, 2012, and reviewed at the Eureka Alert web site on the same day is the first to develop an understanding of behavior and the relationship of DNA methylation to behavioral change in bees.

Single change in genetic sequence can significantly impact BMI variability

One small change to the DNA sequence can cause more weighty changes to the human body, according to a new study released today. The discovery comes thanks to a worldwide consortium of researchers that includes Professor and Chair of Quantitative Genetics at The University of Queensland (UQ), Peter Visscher, from the Queensland Brain Institute (QBI) and Diamantina Institute (DI) at UQ. He and his team have found a single change in genetic sequence at the gene FTO had a significant effect on the variability of body mass index (BMI). BMI is a commonly used measure of obesity. It measures someone’s weight adjusted for his or her height.

Agricultural biotechnology ‘should be open source’

Open source biotechnology, through which biotechnology inventions are made freely available for others to use and improve upon, could help developing countries overcome hurdles created by stringent intellectual property rights (IPRs), a study says.

GM food production increasing

The future in feeding the projected more than 9 billion world population by 2050 will require doubling the world’s food production, according to the most accepted projections.

Increased yield per acre/hectare in crop production is definitely necessary because farmland is limited and even shrinking.

Study reveals rice genes involved in hybrid sterility

Fertility-fighting versions of three genes at the same genetic locus contribute to hybrid sterility in plants produced by crossing two popular rice sub-species, according to a study appearing online today in Science.

Scientists find insulin sensitivity gene, may lead to new diabetes treatments

Oxford University researchers have discovered, for the first time, a single gene responsible for increasing insulin sensitivity in humans. The research, published today by Pal et al in the New England Journal of Medicine, is a milestone achievement in the journey towards understanding the group of metabolic diseases which stem from insulin resistance, including type II diabetes, metabolic syndrome or syndrome X and polycystic ovarian syndrome.

Geneticists verify cholesterol-cancer link

University of Rochester Medical Center scientists discovered new genetic evidence linking cholesterol and cancer, raising the possibility that cholesterol medications could be useful in the future for cancer prevention or to augment existing cancer treatment.

Human, malaria-causing parasite genomes sequenced

THE human genetic instruction book just got more readable. Nearly a decade after the Human Genome Project assembled the genome’s three billion chemical units, an international consortium has revealed how the components fit together into sentences and chapters.

Anti-GM protesters arrested outside Monsanto plant

Nine anti-genetically modified food activists were arrested this week during their protest against Monsanto, who is against Proposition 37, which would require the labeling of foods containing ingredients derived from genetically modified plants.

Nigeria: No GM foods in the Nigerian food market

The National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA) has said there are no genetically modified (GM) foods in Nigerian markets, dispelling fears that Nigerians may have been buying and consuming the biologically engineered foods even before the government gives its approval.

Gene therapy cures siblings of “bubble boy” syndrome

Abbygail Ainslie was born perfect in July 2011. She weighed nine pounds and the genetic tests that have become standard at most hospitals showed no problem whatsoever. But her mother, Jessica Ainslie, didn’t feel right.

Obesity linked to genes

There has been an alarming rise in the number of obese people in the last few decades and the epidemic is turning into an unprecedented challenge for healthcare systems around the world.

However, apart from looking for ways to reduce weight or burn excessive fat, researchers have also been looking at the factors that contribute to obesity and the measures to prevent it.

Genetic role in nicotine addiction and cessation

As everyone knows, smoking kills. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), smoking can lead to cancer, heart disease, lung disease and stroke. Armed with this understanding of the deadly effects of smoking, scientists have increasingly looked into the habit itself and how individuals can be successful in smoking cessation programs.

Project ENCODE decoded

This month, dozens of papers have been published in Nature, Genome Research and Genome Biology, all detailing scientists’ efforts in compiling ENCODE (the Encyclopedia of DNA Elements), which is the massive effort to collect, analyze and organize all of the relevant data about the human genome into a functional map.

Re-evaluating the junk DNA discovery

Over the last few days, several interesting blog posts and pieces have cast doubt on those front-page claims that our so-called junk DNA is not so junky after all.

Could Bioimimicry solve global hunger?

Biomimicry or biomimetics is the examination of nature for inspiratioin order to solve human problems. The latest wave of biomimicry research has focused on the question of symbiosis, essentially nature’s cooperative exchanges. Could this help address world water and food challenges?

Tastier beef by genetic design

New research to examine the link between genetics and health and meat-eating quality has just begun at the Tully research centre in Co Kildare.

China suspends researcher on “golden rice” study

China’s national health watchdog suspended one of its researchers after announcing it hadn’t approved or participated in a 2008 Sino-U.S. study that examined the effect of genetically modified vitamin-enriched rice on 24 children.

Genetic proof for cilantro haters

Scientists have had a hunch for some time that cilantro hating might be partly inherited. But now a genetic survey of nearly 30,000 peoplehas given us a definitive answer: hating cilantro is hard-wired into your genes.

Pain management: Is it time to start looking at the patient’s genes?

Most of you are now drawing the same conclusion that I used to draw. “Dammit, I am the doctor and you are a drug seeker. You just want the ‘percs,’ better known as Percocet (Endo Laboratories).” Naturally, you say this internally in order not to offend the patient or, even worse, suffer the ignominy and hassle of a board complaint. Maybe you even scream it like the thunder of an internal Tourette’s syndrome but now we know that Mrs. Robinson may really be on to something because of the results of her simple DNA test.

Highest European court confirms GM crop rights

On Sept. 6, the European Court of Justice clarified the legal requirements for the cultivation of genetically-modified (GM) crops in the Member States of the European Union. The Court confirmed that additional national authorization procedures, introduced on top of the existing approval process conducted by the European authorities (European Food Safety Authority) to be unlawful. It also declared that coexistence measures are not mandatory to grow GM plants.

Free market view of California Prop 37

When Californians go to the polls this November, one of the ballot initiatives they will vote on will be the California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act, a proposed law that would require that foods containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) be specially labeled. This move for mandatory labeling is just the latest development in the ongoing controversy over the safety of genetically modified (GM) foods.

Are biorefineries the future?

I caught an interesting report last week by John Licata, founder of Blue Phoenix Inc. via CME Group in a PDF titled “Biorefineries May be New Greenfield”. Licata starts out explaining that following three decades of refinery contraction in the U.S. (the last one built in 1976), American consumers are now feeling this lack of refinery capacity in the way of higher gasoline prices. We are down to 144 operable U.S. refineries, the fewest since 1949. He warns that because of more stringent govenment fuel requirements coming, and older refineries incapable of breaking down crude to more eco-friendly gasoline, we will continue to see pump prices head upwards.

Kenya divided on use of GM crops

The Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI), a semi-autonomous government research institution, recently announced that after years of trials, genetically modified drought-resistant maize seeds will be available to Kenyan farmers within the next five years. Trial GM drought-resistant cotton crops are already growing in Kidoko, 240 miles southeast of Nairobi

Shortness: Environmental factors can alter genetics

Pamela Surkin, an associate professor at the university, led a team of researchers in analyzing data of over 6,000 mothers and babies through the course of four years. They discovered moms with moderate to severe depression nine months after their children were born, were 50 percent more likely to have shorter kids by the time they turned five.

Gene to gene interactions important to trait variance

Gaining more insight into predicting how genes affect physical or behavioral traits by charting the genotype-phenotype map holds promise to speed discoveries in personalized medicine. But figuring out exactly how genes interact has left parts of the map invisible.

Genes and drugs: Would sports be better off legalizing doping?

Poor Lance Armstrong. The seven-time Tour de France winner has been stripped of his famous victories by the United States Anti-Doping Agency, which claims he used illicit performance-enhancing drugs. Armstrong never tested positive for anything, but his decision to quit fighting the charges has been seen by some as tantamount to a confession. So why shouldn’t he be punished? Doping is, after all, widely considered the ultimate sin of professional athletes.

Pedophilia: Is it genetic?

Gawker published a piece on the neurological problems which might result in pedophilia, and naturally a lot of shock and disgust was triggered. The piece is titled Born This Way: Sympathy and Science for Those Who Want to Have Sex with Children. This isn’t something you want to click through to lightly. So fair warning. The neurobiological material did pique my interest:

Europe debates use of modified olive fly

As Spain revs up its annual campaign against one of its olive crop’s biggest enemies – the olive fly – another campaign is underway in Europe against allowing a genetically modified (GM) ‘sterile’ fly to be used as a chemical-free alternative.

Will Prop 37 cost California agriculture $1.2 billion?

Proposition 37 would result in $1.2 billion in higher costs for farmers and food processors, higher prices for consumers and a crush of costly regulations with no benefits, according to a new study by two University of California, Davis, agricultural economics professors.

Are GMO labels a scarlet letter?

Proposition 37 could make California the first state in the country to require labels on foods made with genetically-modified ingredients. It’s shaping up to be one of the most contentious — and certainly the most expensive — battles on the state’s November ballot.

UC Davis professors warn of high cost of Prop 37

The No on Proposition 37 campaign emailed Thursday to tout a new study by UC Davis professors. It concludes that the proposition on the November ballot to require the labeling of genetically engineered foods would cost the food industry more than a billion dollars and lead to higher food costs from consumers.

Brahman genetics provide relief for drought-stricken herds

Two summers of dire drought conditions in a vast majority of the U.S. has made drought relief a hot topic among the nation’s cattlemen. The importance of selecting cattle that fit the environment is more apparent now than ever before, especially considering the extremely hot and dry conditions, limited forage and high feed prices that have driven cattlemen to disperse their herds. Yet, even with the undesirable weather pattern, herd dispersal can be avoided. In fact, it has been avoided. Many Brahman and Brahman F-1 breeders have taken advantage of the American Brahman’s drought tolerance to keep their business afloat.

The genetics behind Venus, the mysterious two-faced cat

A cat named Venus is one of the most famous felines on the planet. The three-year-old torty has her own Facebook page and has collected more than a million views on YouTube, in addition to making appearances on the Today Show and in other news venues. The reason behind Venus’ fame? Her striking two-face markings: half black-with-yellow eye, half orange-with-blue-eye.

Fumbled DNA tests mean peril for breast-cancer patients

Debbie McCarron was prepared to get both of her breasts taken off if a blood test in December 2006 revealed she carried a gene that vastly increases the risk of breast cancer. Having survived the disease five years earlier, she didn’t want to risk getting it again.

Will personalized medicine challenge or reify categories of race and ethnicity?

In the last 5 years, medical geneticists have been conducting studies to examine possible links between DNA and disease on an unprecedented scale, using newly developed DNA genotyping and sequencing technologies to quickly search the genome. These techniques have also allowed researchers interested in human genetic variation to begin to catalogue the range of genetic similarities and differences that exist across individuals from around the world, through initiatives such as the International Haplotype Mapping Project [1]. These studies of human genetic variation promise to produce new kinds of information about our DNA, but they have also raised ethical questions.

Myriad Genetics patent dispute: Genes are patentable, and that’s OK, says author

The recent Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Geneticspatent dispute involving two genes for breast and ovarian cancer, BRCA 1 and BRCA 2, has been widely followed by the media over the last several years. According to some the case highlights a potentially devastating future where humans have no control over their very own genetic

Genetic blueprint of unborn baby in sight

Sequencing the whole genome of a fetus could provide a medical early warning on a previously unknown scale – but it also brings dilemmas. If you could peer into your baby’s medical future, what traits would you most want assurance about?

Personal genomics: New drugs target common cancers

Tens of thousands of Americans with tumors from certain types of lung cancer have mutations that might be treated by new drugs that are already in the pipeline or that could be easily developed–a dramatic demonstration of the promise of personalized genomic-based medicine.

Mandatory GM labeling would require major change, says GM supporter

CPG manufacturers may be on the cusp of monumental change as voters in California contemplate a hotly contested ballot initiative to require labeling of genetically modified foods.

Food marketers will face tough choices should the measure pass, as about 70% of processed foods sold in supermarkets contain GM ingredients like corn and soy. Some estimate that 100,000 or more foods sold in California contain some level of GE ingredients and would therefore be affected.

India: Give up the fear of GM crops, says Indian farmer

The parliamentary committee report on genetically modified (GM) organisms is an attempt to give a quiet burial to biotechnology in India. On behalf of the farmers of India, let me say that this report totally fails to reflect farmers’ aspirations, and distorts the scientific significance of biotechnology – including genetic engineering – for the national economy. Instead, it echoes persistent canards by some environmental NGOs.

Can GM crops bust the drought?

Farmers and crop companies are struggling to figure out ways to cope with severe drought. Changing the weather is still beyond us—though some countries like China are trying—but what if there were a way to breed crops that could use water more efficiently, thriving even in times of drought?

Genetic clues to causes of liver disease

Researchers have newly identified three genetic regions associated with primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC), the most common autoimmune liver disease, increasing the number of known regions associated with the disorder to 25.

Genetic study stirs hope for lung cancer patients

The first large and comprehensive study of the genetics of a common lung cancer finds that more than half the tumors from the cancer have mutations that might be treated by new drugs already in the pipeline or that could be easily developed. For the tens of thousands of patients with that cancer — squamous cell lung cancer — the results are promising because they could foretell a new type of treatment in which drugs are tailored to match the genetic abnormality in each patient, researchers say.

New DNA encyclopedia attempts to map function of entire human genome

Hundreds of thousands of new genomic pieces, catalogued for the very first time, are contained in the data, which is described Sept. 4 in 30 papers published by Nature and the Journal of Biological Chemistry. Also included are preliminary descriptions of how these pieces fit together.

Transhumanism series premiers on web

A new high-profile digital series H+ portrays a world in the not-so-distant future in which transhumanism has moved from the fringe it currently inhabits to become a mainstream ideology and reality.

Wal-Mart resists protesters, will sell GM corn

The protest over Walmart’s decision to sell genetically modified sweet corn is building. Opponents of GM foods are alarmed and angry, claiming that this Monsanto-created GM food may cause health and environmental problems.

Mexico: Biotechnology is important for increasing yields and reducing pesticide usage, says report

The Confederation of Mexican Cotton Association (CMCA) believes that biotechnology is an important tool in increasing yields and reducing pesticide usage in Mexico. In the USDA FAS GAIN Report, the Association has documented that pesticide application dropped by over 50 percent due to use of GM seeds and yields have increased significantly. It is estimated by industry sources that for marketing year 2011/12, 85 percent of the total area planted used GM seeds with an average yield of 8.55 bales per hectare compared to the 7.24 bales/ha of conventional hybrids.

Controversial GM potato trial to yield results in weeks

A controversial study into the environmental impact of genetically modified (GM) potatoes in Oak Park, Co Carlow, is expected to start showing results within weeks.

Almost two weeks ago, the agricultural development body Teagasc planted 24 GM potato plants that have improved resistance to late potato blight alongside conventional potato plants.

Conference urges drive toward GMO-free Europe

The European Green Party and the European GMO-free Regions Network is meeting with politicians, scientists, EU institutions and businesses in Brussels today to discuss the future of GMO-free food and agriculture in Europe.

GM crops choked by regulatory burder, says GM supporter

FOOD prices are at record highs and the ranks of the hungry are swelling once again. A warming climate is beginning to nibble at crop yields worldwide. The United Nations predicts that there will be one to three billion more people to feed by midcentury.

European court confirms right to cultivate GM crops

A decision by the European Court of Justice has clarified the legal requirements concerning the cultivation of GM crops within the European Union member states. The decision confirms the non-legitimacy of national authorizations introduced in addition to the approval of biotech crops established by the European legal framework, and it also confirms that coexistence measures are not mandatory to grow GM plants.

Animal genetics help scientists understand diseases

Not only have great strides been made in human genetics but also in animal genetics. This is important because such genetic information is not only helpful to the animal, but it frequently can also be applied to humans.

Researchers identify stem cells responsible for tissue repair

The skin, which is an essential barrier that protects our body against the external environment, undergoes constant turnover throughout life to replace dead cells that are constantly sloughed off from the skin surface. During adult life, the number of cells produced must exactly compensate for the number of cells lost. Different theories have been proposed to explain how this delicate balance is achieved.

Gene ‘switch’ may explain heart defect syndrome severity

The discovery of a ‘switch’ that modifies a gene known to be essential for normal heart development could explain variations in the severity of birth defects in children with DiGeorge syndrome.

Researchers from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute made the discovery while investigating foetal development in an animal model of DiGeorge syndrome. DiGeorge syndrome affects approximately one in 4,000 babies.

‘Gene switches’ in ‘junk DNA’ control human health

The human genome is packed with at least four million gene switches that reside in bits of DNA that once were dismissed as “junk” but that turn out to play critical roles in controlling how cells, organs and other tissues behave. The discovery, considered a major medical and scientific breakthrough, has enormous implications for human health because many complex diseases appear to be caused by tiny changes in hundreds of gene switches.

Is bug resistant GM corn losing its effectiveness?

There’s “mounting evidence” that Monsanto Co. (MON) corn that’s genetically modified to control insects is losing its effectiveness in the Midwest, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said.

Zambia: State refutes GMO importation claim

Government says reports that the country is being fed by Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO’s) is mere speculation.
Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Livestock Rodgers Mwewa says there is no proof that the country is allowing traders to import or farmers to grow such foods.

Unraveling the human genome: 6 molecular milestones

In a milestone for the understanding of human genetics, scientists just announced the results of five years of work in unraveling the secrets of how the genome operates. The ENCODE project, as it is known, dispensed with the idea that our DNA is largely “junk,” repeating sequences with no function, finding instead that at least 80 percent of the genome is important.

New approach for efficient analysis of emerging genetic data

With the ability to sequence human genes comes an onslaught of raw material about the genetic characteristics that distinguish us, and wading through these reserves of data poses a major challenge for life scientists. Researchers at Roswell Park Cancer Institute (RPCI) and the Center for Human Genome Variation at Duke University Medical Center (DUMC) have developed an approach for analyzing data that can help researchers studying genetic factors in disease to quickly cull out relevant genetic patterns and identify variants that lead to particular disorders.

Human genome far more active than thought

The GENCODE Consortium expects the human genome has twice as many genes than previously thought, many of which might have a role in cellular control and could be important in human disease. This remarkable discovery comes from the GENCODE Consortium, which has done a painstaking and skilled review of available data on gene activity. Among their discoveries, the team describe more than 10,000 novel genes, identify genes that have ‘died’ and others that are being resurrected. The GENCODE Consortium reference gene catalogue has been one of the underpinnings of the larger ENCODE Project and will be essential for the full understanding of the role of our genes in disease.

Futurist envisions aquaculture and GMOs to feed the planet

It’s been said that, when it comes to the future of food, thought falls along one of two paths. There’s the Malthusian-influenced idea that, as population outstrips resources, we’re about to hit hard times, or the thinking that future technologies will be so advanced we’ll have revolutionary forms of super food, like full meals in

Stem cell supplement approved in Taiwan

RBC Life Sciences, Inc. (OTCQB: RBCL) announced today that the Company’s stem cell supplement, Stem-Kine™, has been approved for importation and sale in Taiwan. Stem-Kine is marketed in Taiwan under the name SK Plus.

Newborn screening can help prevent problems

Newborn babies are screened, even if they look healthy, because some medical conditions cannot be seen by just looking at the baby. Finding these conditions soon after birth can help prevent some serious problems, such as brain damage, organ damage, and even death.

Evidence matters in genomic medicine: Cancer genomic tests

In a previous blog, CDC’s Office of Public Health Genomics announced a list of health-related genomic tests and applications, stratified into three tiers according to the availability of scientific evidence and evidence-based recommendations as a result of systematic reviewsExternal Web Site Icon. The list is intended to promote information exchange and dialogue among researchers, providers, policy makers, and the public. We have updated the list to include tests that have been discussed in a recent article by the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN)External Web Site Icon. For these tests, we have considered NCCN recommendations and other evidence-based reviews, reports or assessments from Blue Cross Blue Shield Association Technical Evaluation Center (TEC)External Web Site Icon and guidelines from the National Institute for Health and Clinical ExcellenceExternal Web Site Icon in the placement of individual tests within the OPHG tier list.

Will overregulation in Europe stymie synthetic biology?

The promising new field of “synthetic biology” involves the design and construction of new biological components, devices and systems, as well as the re-design of existing, natural biological systems. It is intended to move microbiology and cell biology closer to the approach of engineering so that standardized biological parts can be mixed, matched and assembled similar to the way that off-the-shelf chassis, engines, transmissions and so on can be combined to build a hot-rod.

Monsanto: ‘No’ to GM food labeling in California, ‘yes’ to GM food labeling in Great Britain? Why?

Monsanto fully supports the labeling of foods with genetically engineered products. In the United Kingdom.

St. Louis-based Monsanto, a leading producer of genetically engineered seeds and chemicals such as the herbicide Roundup, has donated $4.2 million to efforts to defeat Proposition 37, a controversial measure on the November ballot that would require labeling for genetically engineered foods.

First GM camels to be engineered for drug production

The project aims to slash the prices of life-saving drugs — including insulin, and clotting factors for treating haemophilia — in the Middle East and North Africa, according to Nisar Wani, head of the Reproductive Biology Laboratory at Dubai’s Camel Reproduction Center, in the United Arab Emirates.

Plant biotechnologists “time travel” with their use of chemicals

In the last few months there have been two examples where we have seen brand new biotech crops that are tolerant to relatively old herbicides. It feels a little bit like time travel. Dow AgroSciences is developing 2,4-D tolerance trait for corn. That is an herbicide which was first released in 1946. Monsanto is developing a dicamba tolerance trait. That herbicide was first commercialized in 1967. Both have recently moved to the USDA comment period stage for their regulatory status.

Paraguay bets on genetically modified soy and corn

Paraguay will approve Monsanto’s genetically modified Roundup Ready 2 soybean seeds before the end of this year along with new corn technology aimed at improving the country’s competitiveness as a grains exporter, a state official said.

Single gene has major impact on gaits in horses and in mice

Researchers at Uppsala University, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences and their international collaborators have discovered a mutation in a single gene in horses that is critical for the ability to perform ambling gaits, for pacing and that has a major effect on performance in harness racing. Experiments on this gene in mice have led to fundamental new knowledge about the neural circuits that control leg movements. The study is a breakthrough for our understanding of spinal cord neuronal circuitry and its control of locomotion in vertebrates.