The Cross-Border Biotech Blog

Biotechnology, Health and Business in Canada, the United States and Worldwide

Tag Archives: Omics

Friday Science Review: November 27, 2009

Two quick reviews on studies addressing Alzheimer’s and lung damage therapy…

An ‘- omics’ Study of Lipids in Alzheimer’s Disease: Clues to the underlying molecular mechanisms of amyloid plaque proteins causing Alzheimer’s disease were revealed using a lipidomic method (think broad ‘-omics’ type profiling of lipids).  In diseased tissue, accumulation of certain isoforms or types of lipids is associated with hyperphosphorylation of the tau protein, which destabilizes neuronal cells and leads to neuronal cell death.  The researchers also demonstrated that pharmacological modulation of lipid metabolism has positive effects in protecting the integrity of the neurons and may be a strategy to prevent further decline in patients suffering from the disease.  Dr. Steffany Bennett and her research team at the University of Ottawa published the study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Stem Cell Therapy for Lung Damage:  Premature newborns often suffer lung damage that leads to chronic lung disease.  However, new research using mesenchymal stem cells injected into the lungs shows promise in stimulating lung repair.  The study by Dr. Bernard Thébaud and his team at the University of Alberta in Edmonton used newborn rats as the subjects to test their hypothesis.  What is surprising is that it does not appear that the stem cells establish themselves in place of the damaged cells.  Instead, they act protectively to allow the lung to repair themselves and this may involve the release of factors from the stem cells to stimulate the regeneration process.  This strategy holds a lot of promise and hopefully the same is true in humans.  The study is a first on stem cell therapy in newborn lungs and is reported in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

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I’ll Drink To That: Genome BC and Genome Canada Launch $3.4 million Grape and Wine Genomics Project

niagara_grape_vinesA team of researchers in British Columbia (UBC, SFU), Ontario (Guelph) and elsewhere (NRC, USDA) will be studying grapes and yeast to bring molecular techniques to bear on winemaking.  Ultimately, they aim to produce a hand-held device to “help growers monitor proteins in the vine or berry at any time” (a “vine-corder”?) that will be adapted from a detector developed by Paul Yager at the University of Washington.

Specific goals of the project are to:

  • Clarify how nitrogen fertilization affects hormone regulation of metabolic pathways important for berry ripening, chemical composition and wine quality
  • Determine the relationship between gene expression patterns and variation in amino acid composition at maturity in ripening berries
  • Develop biomarkers for vineyard monitoring of vine water stress
  • Use a systems biology approach to identify functions for each of the genes involved in the fermentation stress response and the regulation of molecular sugar and amino-acid transporters during wine fermentation
  • Deliver knowledge that leads to understanding the complex scientific, policy, industry and public issues involved in the application of genomics to the wine industry

They have a good head start, having identified 62 genes that are switched on during fermentation, so characterizing those will be a top priority.

Interestingly, the project also includes an ELSI-type component, to “help the Canadian industry and regulatory bodies better understand public concerns regarding the use of genomics technologies in the production of wine and the general food industry more generally.”

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