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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.

The cost of camel milk in the region is comparable to that of cow’s milk, but the former is more suited to local climates, said Wani. Camels are highly resistant to disease, easier to maintain in the region’s arid climate, and are more efficient in converting food [into body mass] than cows.

“We are establishing camel cells modified with exogenous [foreign] DNA, for use in producing transgenic cloned animals, or GM camels,” Wani told SciDev.Net. “Hopefully we will transfer camel transgenic embryos to surrogate mothers for the first time later this year.”

Wani said he was unable to pinpoint when the first transgenic animal would be born, as the calving rate for cloned embryos was only five per cent, and “this rate gets even smaller when transgenic cells are used”. “We have crossed some critical barriers but still need to do a lot of work to reach the final destination,” he added.

View the original article here: First GM camels to be engineered for drug production – Reuters AlertNet

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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.

But in the late 1990s, Monsanto ran advertisements in Britain that supported food labeling, which is common in Europe. The European Union first approved labels for genetically engineered food in 1997, and specific rules covering corn and soy came a year later. Monsanto’s ads in Europe apparently ran after the decision to label foods had been made. Labeling rules in the United Kingdom went into effect in early 1999.

“It ran in 1998-1999, was in the U.K. only and was supportive of efforts by retailers to position their products with their customers,” Monsanto spokesman Tom Helscher wrote in an email. The company declined to comment further about why it chose to support labeling abroad but is spending millions to fight California’s effort.

View the original article here: Monsanto, which is fighting efforts to label genetically engineered food in … – San Jose Mercury News

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.

Building on the foundations of molecular biology, biological chemistry, gene sequencing informatics, systems biology and systems engineering, synthetic biology is not fundamentally new but involves the synergistic combination of many areas of science and technology. It could offer scientists unprecedented opportunities for innovation and better enable them to craft made-to-order microorganisms and plants with improved abilities of many kinds — for example, to produce vaccines, clean up toxic wastes, and obtain (or “fix”) nitrogen from the air (obviating the need for chemical fertilizers).

View the original article here: Will Overregulation In Europe Stymie Synthetic Biology? – Forbes

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.

View the original article here: Evidence matters in genomic medicine: Cancer genomic tests

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Organic myth: No evidence that expensive ‘natural’ foods are healthier or better for the environment

There is remarkably little difference in nutritional value or risk for bacterial contamination between more expensive organic and conventional foods made using fertilizers, pesticides or genetically modified organisms, according to a new study published in Annals of Internal Medicine. “Some believe that organic food is always healthier and more nutritious,” said Stanford School of Medicine research instructor Crystal Smith-Spangler, MD MS, the lead author of a groundbreaking review of hundreds of comparative studies, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. “My colleagues and I were a little surprised that we didn’t find that,” said Smith-Spangler.

The Stanford study reviewed more than 200 studies that compared studies that compared either the health of people who ate organic or conventional foods or, nutrient and contaminant levels in the foods themselves.

This scientific study contradicts much of the information distributed by organic food activists, especially those who are fighting to approve Proposition 37 in California, which would require companies to label any genetically modified foods. One such organization, The Organic Consumers Association, reported that “organics is 25% more nutritious in terms of vitamins and minerals than products derived from industrial agriculture.” The Stanford study does not support this claim.

In the past few years, organic food and beverage sales have jumped to nearly $52 billion worldwide. More and more people are buying these organics, with the belief that they are healthier. Other people buy organic because they believe organic foods are pesticide-free. However, there are over 20 chemicals commonly used in the growing and processing of organic crops that are approved by the US Organic Standards. The actual volume usage of pesticides on organic farms is not recorded by the government. In fact, the top organic pesticides, copper and sulfur, are used at a volume twice as high as their synthetic alternatives designed to do the exact same thing.

Some organic groups are trying to use the Stanford study to their advantage. The Organic Trade Association released a statement which implies that organic foods help reduce consumers’ exposure to pesticides. The actual study said that although organic foods do contain fewer pesticides, the level of pesticides is miniscule for both and is well below any levels considered potentially harmful.

Colorado scientists working on genetically modified crops to beat drought

Colorado scientists are looking at genetically modified crops as a way farmers can beat the drought as worries continue about the safety of eating altered foods.

Colorado State University professor Phil Westra says attitudes are changing toward crops that have been altered to resist drought and pests because of a continuing drought that has slashed harvests and increased the price of food.

Westra said a new type of drought-resistant corn was introduced this year that is already showing promise.

“Obviously, it’s going to be important to be able to have those varieties in the future if nobody knows if this is going to be a one-year, two-year, five-year, 10-year drought. If the drought continues for 10 years, you’re probably going to see a lot more sympathy for genetic engineering than if we had all kinds of rain and all kinds of water,” Westra said.

The genetically modified foods are showing up in everything from cereal to eggs, and no warning label is required.

View the original article here: Colorado scientists working on genetically modified crops to beat drought – The Republic

Researchers find genetic signs of human migrations and marriage practices

Your genome is a window onto your heritage – or, more precisely, several windows. There are the marks left by human evolution, the traces of ancient human migrations out of Africa and, scattered throughout, clues to your immediate ancestors’ marriage habits.

This last detail is particularly interesting to medical geneticists. They’re looking for the genes underlying rare, recessive diseases that mainly crop up in populations with a high number of marriages among close relatives, known as consanguineous marriages. But this can be like looking for a needle in a haystack. Teasing out the stretches of genome that are shared among affected individuals due to a recent common ancestor, rather than from vestiges of deep population history, would significantly reduce the amount of hay. A group of researchers, led by Stanford biology research associate Trevor Pemberton and biology Associate Professor Noah Rosenberg, has developed a way to attempt to do just that, laying bare worldwide genome patterns in the process.

View the original article here: Where chromosomes agree, researchers find signatures of human migrations … – Medical Xpress

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Tracing the world’s ancestor: How many generations does it take before someone alive today could be the ancestor of everyone on the planet?

The bloodline between Jesus and King David raises a wider genealogical issue. How many generations does it take before someone alive today is the ancestor of everyone on the planet?

Listeners to the More or Less programme on Radio 4 have been challenging me to answer any fiendish question they can throw at me. A question about Jesus’s genealogy was rather interesting and the answer has astounding ramifications.

The Bible says Jesus was a descendant of King David. But with 1,000 years between them, and since King David’s son Solomon was said to have had about 1,000 wives and mistresses, couldn’t many of Jesus’s peers in Holy Land have claimed the same royal ancestor?

Theory tells us that not only would all of Jesus’s contemporaries be descended from King David, but that this would probably be the case even if Solomon had been into monogamy. We can make this sort of prediction because over the past 15 years or so, these ideas have been studied as part of the research into understanding patterns in our own genome.

View the original article here: Family trees: Tracing the world’s ancestor – BBC News

Glaucoma genetic link discovered

Singapore scientists have identified three new genes associated with Primary Angle Closure Glaucoma (PACG), a leading cause of blindness in Chinese people. PACG affects 15 million people worldwide, 80% of whom live in Asia.

The discovery, published in the prestigious scientific journal, Nature Genetics, on 26 August 2012, was conducted collaboratively by scientists from the Singapore Eye Research Institute (SERI)/Singapore National Eye Centre (SNEC), Genome Institute of Singapore (GIS), National University of Singapore (NUS), National University Hospital’s Department of Ophthalmology and Tan Tock Seng Hospital.

View the original article here: Glaucoma genetic link discovered

Can early menopause be cured? A genetic mouse model may pave the way

Scientists have established a genetic mouse model for primary ovarian insufficiency (POI), a human condition in which women experience irregular menstrual cycles and reduced fertility, and early exposure to estrogen deficiency.

POI affects approximately one in a hundred women. In most cases of primary ovarian insufficiency, the cause is mysterious, although genetics is known to play a causative role. There are no treatments designed to help preserve fertility. Some women with POI retain some ovarian function and a fraction (5-10 percent) have children after receiving the diagnosis.

Having a mouse model could accelerate research on the causes and mechanisms of POI, and could eventually lead to treatments, says Peng Jin, PhD, associate professor of human genetics at Emory University School of Medicine.

View the original article here: Can early menopause be cured? A genetic mouse model may pave the way

Ancient human kin’s DNA code illuminates rise of brains

DNA analysis of an extinct human ancestor that lived 80,000 years ago has pinpointed fundamental genes tied to the brain’s evolution, showing how genome testing is changing anthropology and archaeology along with medicine.

At least eight genes that rose to prominence in human DNA since the time of the ancient relatives, called Denisovans, affect nerve growth and language, an international team of researchers said today in the journal Science. The cognitive power conferred by these genes may have keyed the development of complex thinking skills, culture and civilization said Svante Paabo, a researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany.

“This is perhaps in the long term, to me, the most fascinating part about this; what it will tell us in the future about what makes us special in the world,” he said yesterday on a conference call.

View the original article here: Ancient human kin’s DNA code illuminates rise of brains

GM government panel warns New Zealand that it could miss the GM bus

New Zealand has been issued an ultimatum by GM heavyweights – change our tune on genetically modified food or watch our exporting lifeblood lag behind the rest of the world.

The warning was delivered yesterday by a high-powered panel including the US Government’s bio-tech trade envoy and the vice-president of US giant DuPont Agricultural Biotechnology.

View the original article here: GM government panel warns New Zealand that it could miss the GM bus

Authorities in China deny that children were used in a GM food experiment

Authorities in Hunan province on Saturday denied that children in a rural school were guinea pigs in a US research project on the effects of genetically modified rice.

A research paper involving 68 Chinese primary-school children in the province was published by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition on Aug 1, with Guangwen Tang at Tufts University in the US named as the lead author.

The unapproved experimental GM rice, widely referred to as “golden rice” and genetically engineered to produce provitamin A, was created by Ingo Potrykus at the Institute of Plant Sciences in the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology and Peter Beyer at the University of Freiburg more than 10 years ago.

Chen Peihou, deputy director of the Hunan Center for Disease Control and Prevention, confirmed that the second author of the paper, listed as Hu Yuming, is a researcher for the centre.

“I was aware of the project in Hengyang in 2008, which involved children and was mainly testing for beta-carotene bioavailability and bioconversion to retinol,” or vitamin A, Chen said Sunday. “But as far as I know, no GM rice was used, and all the food involved was locally produced.”

View the original article here: Authorities in China deny that children were used in a GM food experiment

In the European Union, there is a call for “evidence, not emotion” on GM foods

Professor Anne Glover said Europe could only achieve sustainable intensification if we become more open-minded.  “What we do now will shape what happens in 2050,” said Prof Glover.

“We do need to improve crop yields and we need to improve wastage before harvest. Farming needs to have less chemical and water input. This has to be achievable and we will achieve it, but we need to be more open minded about how we achieve it.”

Prof Glover referred specifically to European attitudes towards genetically modified (GM) technology.

“If we just looked at the evidence base, we would have GM in the EU without a doubt. GM crops are subject to more scrutiny than any other type of agriculture,” she said, adding: “There is no substantiated evidence that I have ever seen that GM crops are harmful to the environment, animals or people”.  Prof Glover also said Europe must have a more strategic approach to pesticides which were expensive both in terms of cost to the farmer and their impact on the environment.

View the original article here: In the European Union, there is a call for “evidence, not emotion” on GM foods

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.

View the original article here: Single gene has major impact on gaits in horses and in mice