June 11, 2010
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Catch up on these genetics stories between World Cup soccer games…
Genetic Links to Autism: Phase 2 results of the Autism Genome Project mapping the genetics of autism is reported this week in Nature. Researchers used the latest microarray technology to identify a trend that autism patients carry more insertion and deletion mutations affecting their genes. Several genes were also labelled as potential autism risk factor genes and could be very useful for diagnostic purposes. “Guided by these massive genomic data sets, we can start to see the forest through the trees, offering answers and hope for families with autism,” says Dr. Stephen Scherer at The Hospital for Sick Children who led the consortium along with Dr. Peter Szatmari at McMaster University. You can read about it here or sit back and watch this interview with Dr. Scherer.
Note that this study contrasts the controversial 1998 Lancet paper by Dr. Andrew Wakefield who suggested a strong link between the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine and autism, leading to many parents withdrawing their children from the effective vaccine program. The Lancet journal retracted the paper in February 2010.
Nature versus Nurture: Epigenetics is at the crossroads of genetics and environmental factors – the science of how the environment affects gene regulation at the molecular level that leads to a disease pathway. “With the concepts of epigenetics we can start to understand how a disease risk factor is alternately switched on and off,” Dr. Arturas Petronis at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) explains in this new perspective article published in Nature.
Epigenetics provides a new theoretical framework that addresses the vast complexities, irregularities, and controversies detected in common human diseases. For instance, epigenetics explains why one identical twin may be affected with cancer or diabetes although the co-twin is perfectly healthy. “In a case like this, the inherited genes are identical and the environment is similar. But one twin’s risk factor has been triggered, while the other twin’s risk factor has not been triggered,” says Dr. Petronis.
For personalized medicine to move forward, it is imperative to understand the mechanism of how environmental cues lead to genetic changes and how this process can be controlled.
February 1, 2010
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Canadian biotech companies were busy making and closing deals this week, with $44 million raised, four new licensing and collaboration deals, and particularly big weeks for Ospens and the MDS/Dahaner transaction. Read more of this post
July 7, 2009
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Toronto’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) will use a $2.8 million grant from the Canada Foundation for Innovation, along with expected Ontario matching funds, for their ambitious neuroIMAGENE initiative. The neuroIMAGENE program aims
“to combine the power of genetics and sophisticated brain imaging to personalize treatment … for common psychiatric conditions like major depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, as well as addictions.”
Specifically, CAMH will compare DNA characteristics across 18 different psychiatric conditions and integrate that data with PET scans showing individuals’ neurochemical changes induced by drug therapies. The idea is to create tools to identify the medication that will work best for each individual’s brain chemistry and genotype,
“helping to avoid trial-and-error prescribing, treatment failure, relapse, and serious side effects.”
January 23, 2009
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Interesting science developments in and from Canada this week:
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