Early Screening for Breast Cancer Risk:
A group of Canadian researchers showed that using MRI (magnetic resonance imaging, not the Ministry of Research and Innovation) to estimate breast tissue density may provide information on breast cancer risk comparable to measuring density by mammography. Because MRI does not use radiation, earlier screening by MRI would avoid the culumative radiation exposure problems of mammography, although the effect, if any, on clinical outcomes remains unknown. The authors’ interpretation:
Per cent breast water [(density)] was greatest during the ages when women are most susceptible to breast carcinogens, and was associated with weight, height, and mother’s breast-tissue characteristics, and with serum concentrations of growth hormone: a breast mitogen that also mediates postnatal somatic growth. Mammographic density in middle age might partly be the result of genetic factors that affect growth and development in early life.
The study appears in the advanced online publication section of The Lancet Oncology.
Screening for Plant Genes:
After many years of searching, Arabidopsis receptors for abscisic acid (ABA) were identified. ABA helps plants survive drought and other stresses; and as it turns out, there are 13 receptors for it, with the redundancy foiling previous screening techniques. This week, a novel screen developed in a collaboration among scientists at UC Riverside, the University of Ontario Institute of Technology, University of Toronto, Universidad Politécnica de Valencia in Spain and other institutions in the U.S. and Spain identified one of the family members and used that one to find its relatives. The PYR/PYL proteins are a family of START receptors that the authors place “at the apex of a negative regulatory pathway that controls ABA signaling by inhibiting PP2Cs.” Their work was published this week in Science’s advance publication, Science Express.
Put this together with the reports in Nature this week showing targeted insertions in the plant genome, and you have a powerful set of tools to start engineering drought and stress resistant crops. The targeted plant vectors use a zinc-finger nuclease, designed from a public database created by Daniel Voytas at University of Minnesota, J. Keith Joung at Mass Gen and their colleagues.
April 3, 2009
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Good news: If you happen to be in Montréal on Monday, you should check out the opening of the Centre de pharmacogénomique Beaulieu-Saucier de l’Université de Montréal (that’s the Beaulieu-Saucier Centre for Pharmacogenomics at the University of Montréal, y’all). It will be great to see what comes out of this centre for Canadian personalized medicine.
Bad news: If you happen to have been relying on a Nature paper from 2000 in which researchers in Canada and South Korea said they used gene therapy to reverse Type 1 diabetes, you should reconsider.
Good news: If you happen to do a science fair project that dovetails with a Minister’s legislative efforts, you could be famous. Also, don’t drive and talk.
Bad news: If you were excited about the availability of private clinics in Canada offering CT and PET scans, you should read this new study from the Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives first, which found that there are prevalent misconceptions about the safety and regulation of these screening technologies.