Tag Archives: genomics

Cancer Research Saves Lives

18 Apr

The AACR debuted at its annual conference today an informative video about the accomplishments and possibilities of cancer research. Check it out.

Creating Designer Babies: Screening for Disease and Desirable Traits

15 Feb

Pre-implantation genetic diagnosis, or PGD, has been used to screen for genes that lead to diseases such as cystic fibrosis and cancer.  Now, the lab procedure that screens for diseases in embryos is being offered to create designer children. Two articles on the topic have appeared recently; they both address the medical and ethical implications.

Last month, the New Scientist reported that the first UK baby genetically selected to be free of a form of breast cancer caused by BRCA1 was born in London.  It was reported that the parents underwent IVF, and the resulting embryos were screened with PGD, where a small number of cells are removed and tested. Only embryos free of the BRCA1 gene were implanted. Five  embryos tested were found to be free of the gene and were implanted; one resulted in the pregnancy.

Gautam Naik reported in February 12 issue of The Wall Street Journal that LA- based Fertility Institutes, will soon help couples select both gender and physical traits in a baby when they undergo fertility treatment. Dr. Jeff Steinberg, director of the clinic, claims that trait selection “is a service” that he intends to offer soon.  According to Naik:

For trait selection, Steinberg is now betting on a new approach for screening embryos. It involves taking cells from an embryo at day five of its development, compared with typical PGD, which uses cells from day three. The method potentially allows more cells to be obtained, leading to a more reliable diagnosis of the embryo.

Many countries have banned the use of PGD for gender selection; it is permitted in the U.S. According to a 2006 survey by the Genetics and Public Policy Center at Johns Hopkins University,42% of 137 PGD clinics offered a gender-selection service.

Creating Designer Babies: the Smackdown Continues

15 Feb

ob-dc896_design_ns_20090211191015

PGD, or pre-implantation genetic diagnosis is being used to screen embryos for diseases such as cancer, and it’s now  being used to pick traits like gender, eye and hair color.  Last month, the New Scientist reported that the first UK baby genetically selected to be free of a form of breast cancer caused by BRCA1 was born in London.  Gautam Naik reported in February 12 issue of The Wall Street Journal that LA- based Fertility Institutes, will soon help couples select both gender and physical traits in a baby when they undergo fertility treatment. Dr. Jeff Steinberg, director of the clinic, claims that trait selection “is a service” that he intends “to offer soon.”

Are we going too far? You decide.

New Gene Therapy Targets Alzheimer’s

15 Feb

bankiewiczA new approach to delivering gene therapy to the brain to treat neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, was revealed in research findings published in the February 4 online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

UCSF neuroscientist Dr. Krystof Bankiewicz has developed a promising way to get nerve cells to help disperse gene therapy to targeted brain cells. He uses a technique called convection-enhanced delivery. The fluid containing the gene therapy is injected under pressure, delivered in pulses. Says Bankiewicz:

For the first time, specific regions of the cortex can be supplied with therapeutic agents by targeting defined regions of the thalamus…Translational experiments now are in progress to evaluate the potential of this unique gene delivery technology for the treatment of cortical dementias such as Alzheimer’s disease…

Bankiewicz’s research at UCSF has a strong focus on the development of practical approaches to gene and cell replacement therapies; he synthesizes several individual technologies into powerful new approaches to the treatment of such serious disease as brain cancer and neurodegenerative disorders, including Parkinson’s disease.

Source: Science Cafe

DNA and Your Personal Health — Is Too Much Knowledge Good?

24 Jan

In the coming era of consumer genetics, your DNA will have much to tell you about the biological bases of your health, your physique and even your personality. But will this knowledge really amount to self-knowledge? asks Steven Pinker in his article My Genome, My Self, which appeared in the January 11, 2009 issue of the Sunday New York Times.

We've entered the age of personal genomics — where Pinker says "the plunging cost
of genome sequencing — will soon give people an unprecedented
opportunity to contemplate their own biological and even psychological
makeups".  For example, 23andMe provides
a genetic report card and directs customers to a web page which
displays risk factors for 14 diseases
and 10 traits. This page also provides links additional diseases and
traits which according to Pinker, have iffier scientific substantiation.

This latest "do it yourself genomics" trend coincides with the new promise of personalized medicine – where drugs are being tailored to an individual's genetic makeup.  The downside to this trend ranges from dubious companies which prey on hypochondriacs, to insurance and ethical isues.

For now, the jury is out on the benefits of personal genomics. I like Pinker's concluding thoughts:

So if you are bitten by scientific or personal curiosity and can think
in probabilities, by all means enjoy the fruits of personal genomics.
But if you want to know whether you are at risk for high cholesterol, have your cholesterol measured; if you want to know whether you are good at math, take a math test.

The Internet is accelerating biomedical progress in understanding and treating disease. Personally, I believe in the potential of services like 23andme — it empowers individuals to take control of their medical destinies and enables them to create virtual cohorts for clinical research and trials.  With tools like these, personalized medicine will evolve even faster.

Do It Yourself Genetic Testing – Are we prepared for the results?

24 Jan

11genome-600In the coming era of consumer genetics, your DNA will have much to tell you about the biological bases of your health, your physique and even your personality. But will this knowledge really amount to self-knowledge? asks Steven Pinker in his article My Genome, My Self, which appeared in the January 11, 2009 issue of the Sunday New York Times.

To learn more, read more here.

links for 2009-01-10

10 Jan