Scientists have already used plain old DNA to encode and store all 587,287 words of War and Peace, a list of all the plant material archived in the Svalbard Seed Vault, and an OK Go music video. But now, researchers have created for the first time a living library, embedded within, you guessed it: E. coli. In a paper published today in Nature, Harvard researchers describe using a CRISPR system to insert bits of DNA encoded with photos and a GIF of a galloping horse into live bacteria. When the scientists retrieved and reconstructed the images by sequencing the bacterial genomes, they got back the same images they put in with about 90 percent accuracy.
A vast trove of genetic data on half a million Britons became available for research into a wide range of diseases. The information was released by UK Biobank to approved researchers having been checked and strengthened over the past two years by genetics experts at Oxford University. All 500,000 UK Biobank participants provided samples of blood for long term storage and analysis, including genetic, when they volunteered for the project from 2006 to 2010. “We believe that this is the single largest release of a genetic dataset in terms of number of individuals genotyped,” says Mark Effingham, UK Biobank Chief Information Officer. “The dataset is vast, but we hope it will drive innovative and exciting studies to transform research.”
Sick Kids scientists wielding the “breakthrough” gene editing technology CRISPR have snipped out a genetic defect in mice that causes a severe form of muscular dystrophy, eliminating all signs of paralysis in the animals.
A Food and Drug Administration panel opened a new era in medicine, unanimously recommending that the agency approve the first-ever treatment that genetically alters a patient’s own cells to fight cancer.
A consortium of Toronto researchers have traced the origins of relapse in acute myeloid leukemia (AML) to rare therapy-resistant leukemia stem cells already present at diagnosis and before chemotherapy begins. “For the first time, we have married together knowledge of stem cell biology and genetics – areas that historically have often been operating as separate camps – to identify mutations stem cells carry and how they are related to one another in AML,” says Dr. John Dick of UHN, who pioneered the cancer stem cell field by identifying leukemia stem cells in 1994. The findings, published in Nature, bridge expertise from the University Health Network, Ontario Institute for Cancer Research, University of Toronto, and the Donnelly Centre for Cellular and Biomolecular Research – and provide significant insights into cell types fated to relapse to help accelerate the quest for new, upfront therapies.
Researchers have been able to show that mutation in CHD8, a gene involved in autism, causes changes to brain development, which in turn alters brain anatomy, function and behavior. The collaborative work, including Jason Lerch from the Hospital for Sick Children, was published in Nature Neuroscience, and suggests that CHD8 plays a role in brain function throughout life and may affect more than early brain development in autistic individuals. This work begins to build a cohesive model that links genetic control of brain development with behavior and brain function, and provides new implications for early and lifelong brain development.
The first results of an international effort to produce a complete catalogue of mammalian gene function across all genes of the laboratory mouse has revealed new insights into a range of rare diseases. The research, published in Nature Genetics, has generated over 20 million pieces of data, found 360 new disease models and provides 28,406 new descriptions of the genes’ effects on mouse biology and disease. Incorporating work from the Centre for Phenogenomics and the Hospital for Sick Children, these findings hold potential for accelerating the development of new treatments and precision medicine.
Whole genome sequencing of healthy individuals as a way to predict and prevent disease will, however, inevitably reveal variants that put them at risk for rare genetic conditions – only some of which have health implications. The MedSeq Project examined responses to such results, in both patients and doctors, and revealed “reassuring evidence that primary care providers can be trained to manage their patients’ sequencing results appropriately, and that patients who receive their results are not likely to experience anxiety connected to those results,” said Jason Vassy, lead author.
Two Canadian companies have made a splash advancing personalized medicine in both the US and Canada. Zymeworks raised $85 million in its IPO to advance the development of disruptive therapeutic platforms and biotherapeutics – the first Canadian venture-backed IPO in the life sciences sector since 2014. Additionally, Repare Therapeutics Inc. announced a US$68 million Series A…
$33 million was announced this week for the Structural Genomics Consortium (SGC) – a Canadian-led, international public-private partnership that conducts basic science on the structures of human proteins and releases the research to the public to accelerate drug discovery. Led out of Toronto, the SGC includes sister sites worldwide, and engages public and private sector partners that collaborate to improve the lives of patients worldwide. This support, consisting of $11 M in federal funding through Genome Canada, $5 M through the Government of Ontario MRIS, and $17 M through pharmaceutical companies, will help translate scientific discoveries into potentially life-saving cures for patients with diseases such as cancer, ALS, Huntington’s disease, malaria and tuberculosis.