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.

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, … Read more

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.”

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 … Read more

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?

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.