I have once again fallen behind in Rounding Up the news, so here play catch up, over what has been a very busy two months.
- In a world first, a Chinese group have used a technique called base-editing to cure a genetic disease in a human embryos. Whereas CRISPR cuts DNA, base editing directly changes the base, leaving the DNA strand intact. The paper is from the same group that published the first CIRSPRing of human embryos.
- A survey of Americans found that about two thirds were generally accepting of genome editing for therapeutic purposes. About a third were supportive of genome editing for enhancement reasons.
- First in human gene therapy trial in the US started, using Zing fingers to target Hemophilia A. Meanwhile, Reuters reports that the two gene therapies approved in Europe have seen sales of only 3.
- The scientist who edited the first human embryo in the US stresses that the main result of his work was that the embryo did not incorporate the supplied “healthy” DNA, but instead preferentially incorporated an extra copy of the mother’s DNA. This puts the prospect of designed babies further off.
- Following news of germline human genome modification, several genetic professional societies published a joint statement on the future of the technology, covering the following positions: “(1) At this time, given the nature and number of unanswered scientific, ethical, and policy questions, it is inappropriate to perform germline gene editing that culminates in human pregnancy. (2) Currently, there is no reason to prohibit in vitro germline genome editing on human embryos and gametes, with appropriate oversight and consent from donors, to facilitate research on the possible future clinical applications of gene editing. There should be no prohibition on making public funds available to support this research. (3) Future clinical application of human germline genome editing should not proceed unless, at a minimum, there is (a) a compelling medical rationale, (b) an evidence base that supports its clinical use, (c) an ethical justification, and (d) a transparent public process to solicit and incorporate stakeholder input.”
- A version of CRISPR that acts on RNA, with potential clinical applications e.g. to Huntingtons.
- CRISPRcon, help in Berkeley in August, was designed to pull people to talk about a world with genome editing.
- A great quiz from the New York Times for seeing how up to the times you are on genetic engineering. Contains reference to several of the recent major stories.
- Meanwhile the Onion tackles the pros and cons of genome editing.
- And a nice summary from Ed Yong of what the recent human embryo editing means and doesn’t mean.
And on making babies
- Some men are infertile because they have XXY or XYY sex chromosomes. Scientists have demonstrated a technique in mice where they create sperm from ear cells via stem cells, loosing one of the extra chromosomes along the way.
- On that note, a review of where we’re at with infertility technology, with a particular focus on making artificial gametes.
- The FDA has sent a cease and desist letter to the NYC based doctor who was offering mitochondrial transfer to couples (so called three person babies, legal in the UK).
- Helix has finally launched its App Store. At a time when skepticism of the value genetics can deliver to healthy people is running high. Helix state that they have a rigorous scientific review process that will help them differentiate in the marketplace.
- Color has expanded its genetic screening tests to familial hypercholesterolemia, an inherited heart condition – but the debate about the benefits of such testing rages on.
- An old story, but the Economist reports on insurers being worried that predictive genetic tests will destroy insurance markets.
- Encryption technique for keeping most of one’s genome private, while still allowing particular clinical questions to be answered.
- Looking at the genomes of 147 humans who lived over the last few thousand years, a new study reports that we are much more genetically healthy than our ancient ancestors (with the notable exception of mental health issues), though this trend does not hold for the last 500-1000 years (paper, write-up).
- Evidence that stress causes increased chance of migraine, only for people with a particular variant.
- Craig Venter published an article saying that the promise of DNA anonymity is misguided, as facial features can be recreated from DNA. The paper was quickly criticized by proponents of open data.
- A DTC genetics company is challenging the Alaska Genetic Privacy Law, in the wake of being sued by a customer who claims his data was shared without his consent in breach of the law. Genetic law has had few tests, so this will be a case to watch.
- A Nature paper using a CRISPR variant to screen for why some patient’s cancers do not respond to immunotherapy.
- A liquid biopsy test for nasopharyngeal cancer has performed well in a Chinese study. The test looked for the DNA of the Epstein-Barr virus, which has a known association to the cancer. The leader of the study, Dennis Lo, is a founder of Cirina, a small company that recently merged with Grail.
- The authors of a study looking at the genetics of both the primary and recurring tumors of 170 women with recurrent metastatic breast cancer argue that in many cases it is useful to sequence the metastatic tumor.
- Single color digital PCR as a way to monitor cancer recurrence through individualized assays.
- Promising results for detecting early stage cancer from circulating tumor DNA using TEC-Seq.
- The CMO at Intel has spoken of his fears of biohacking, in a talk at def con entitled “Genetic Diseases to Guide Digital Hacks of the Human Genome: How the Cancer Moonshot Program will Enable Almost Anyone to Crash the Operating System that Runs You or to End Civilization.”
- Malicious code written into DNA infects the computer that reads it – headline of an article reporting on a cleverly designed sequence of DNA, that when read from As, Cs, Gs and Ts into binary, which reads as an ASCII shell command.
- A new tool to enable tracking genomic biodiversity across the planet, spearheaded by the Smithsonian.
- The FDA gets raw data from every clinical trial submitted to it, and it wants to data mine that trove to help drug companies design better clinical trials.
- Gene expression that correlates with suicidality.