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Archive - Mar 4, 2017

New Book Explores Promise & Peril of Having Children in Age of Genetic Testing & Interventions

“The Gene Machine-- How Genetic Technologies Are Changing the Way We Have Kids—and the Kids We Have” ( is a new book published on February 28, 2017, and authored by award-winning journalist Bonnie Rochman. The book explores the promise and peril of having children in an age of genetic tests and interventions through the stories of parents and kids, doctors and genetic counselors, all learning to navigate a world overflowing with information and insights. A former health and parenting columnist for Time magazine, Ms. Rochman has also written for The New York Times Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, NBC News, Scientific American, and O, The Oprah Magazine. An excerpt from her new book appears in the March 2017 issue of Scientific American ( Early comments on the book include the following. “An exciting, informative, and lucidly written book about genes and the future"--Siddhartha Mukherjee, Pulitzer Prize-winning, bestselling author of “The Gene and The Emperor of All Maladies.” "Bonnie Rochman has taken a subject that every parent worries about but few understand, and made it accessible, urgent, and humane. The Gene Machine is like a guidebook to the future. It will be invaluable for many families.”--Bruce Feiler, New York Times bestselling author of “The Secrets of Happy Families.” "Bonnie Rochman dives into the turbulent waters of genetic testing and emerges with The Gene Machine, a smart and compassionate account of this ever-advancing science. Her curiosity and compelling narrative will challenge you to consider all the 'what-ifs' of the future of gene sequencing. Go on this journey with her. Take the plunge.

Genome Sequencing Reveals Aspergillus Diversity for Industrial Applications--"The Potential for Applications within the Genus Has Barely Been Touched."

In the world of fungi, Aspergillus is an industrial superstar. Aspergillus niger, for example, has been used for decades to produce citric acid--a compound frequently added to foods and pharmaceuticals --through fermentation at an industrial scale. Other species in this genus play critical roles in biofuel production, and plant and human health. Because the majority of its 350 species have yet to be sequenced and analyzed, researchers are still at the tip of the iceberg when it comes to understanding Aspergillus' full potential and the spectrum of useful compounds these fungi may generate. In a study published February 14, 2017 in the journal Genome Biology, an international team, including researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute (DOE JGI), a DOE Office of Science User Facility, report sequencing the genomes of ten novel Aspergillus species, more than doubling the number of Aspergillus species sequenced to date. The newly sequenced genomes were compared with the eight other sequenced Aspergillus species. With this first-ever genus-wide view, the international consortium found that Aspergillus has a greater genomic and functional diversity than previously understood, broadening the range of potential applications for the fungi considered one of the most important workhorses in biotechnology. "Several Aspergillus species have already established status as cell factories for enzymes and metabolites. However, little is known about the diversity in the species at the genomic level and this paper demonstrates how diverse the species of this genus are," said study lead author Dr. Ronald de Vries of the Westerdijk Fungal Biodiversity Institute in the Netherlands.

Trial Being Planned for Using Mixture of Substances to Treat Fatty Liver Disease and Possibly Type 2 Diabetes; Human Protein Atlas Data Plays Key Role in Underlying Research

Researchers in Sweden are planning the clinical trial of a new treatment for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and type 2 diabetes which harnesses liver cells’ own ability to burn accumulated fats. In a study involving 86 people with varying degrees of fatty liver disease, researchers from the KTH Royal Institute of Technology’s Science for Life Laboratory (SciLifeLab) research center and Gothenburg University found that the liver has the ability to burn up accumulated fats. The researchers propose a mixture of substances that will set this process in motion. One of the most common chronic liver problems in the world, the accumulation of fat in the liver (hepatic steatosis) is the key characteristic of NAFLD. It is linked to obesity, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases. Up to 30 percent of subjects with NAFLD develop non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) in which hepatic inflammation and scarring can lead to cirrhosis and liver cancer. The researchers mapped the metabolic changes caused by accumulated fat in 86 patients’ liver cells, and combined this data with an analysis of a genome-scale model of liver tissue. Doing so enabled them to identify the precise metabolic changes individual patients’ liver cells undergo due to fat. The results were published online on February 3, 2017 in Molecular Systems Biology. The open-access article is titled “Personal Model‐Assisted Identification of NAD+ and Glutathione Metabolism As Intervention Target in NAFLD.” Lead author Dr. Adil Mardinoglu, a systems biologist at KTH and a SciLifeLab fellow, is one of the researchers who had earlier established a connection between NAFLD and low levels of the antioxidant, glutathione (GSH).