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Archive - Jan 2019


January 30th

Fasting Ramps Up Human Metabolism & Boosts Antioxidants; May Increase Longevity

Fasting may help people lose weight, but new research suggests going without food may also boost human metabolic activity, generate antioxidants, and help reverse some effects of aging. Scientists at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University (OIST) and Kyoto University identified 30 previously-unreported substances whose quantity increases during fasting and indicate a variety of health benefits. “We have been researching aging and metabolism for many years and decided to search for unknown health effects in human fasting,” said Dr. Takayuki Teruya, first author of the paper and a technician in the OIST G0 Cell Unit, led by Professor Mitsuhiro Yanagida. “Contrary to the original expectation, it turned out that fasting induced metabolic activation rather actively.” The new study, published online on January 29, 2019 in Scientific Reports, presents an analysis of whole human blood, plasma, and red blood cells drawn from four fasting individuals. The researchers monitored changing levels of metabolites -- substances formed during the chemical processes that provide organisms energy and allow them to grow. The results revealed 44 metabolites, including 30 that were previously unrecognized, that increased universally among subjects between 1.5- to 60-fold within just 58 hours of fasting. The open-access article is titled “Diverse Metabolic Reactions Activated During 58-Hr Fasting Are Revealed by Non-Targeted Metabolomic Analysis of Human Blood.” In previous research, the G0 Cell Unit had identified various metabolites whose quantities decline with age, including three known as leucine, isoleucine, and ophthalmic acid.

Non-Invasive Brain Stimulation of Key Circuit Between Prefrontal Cortex & Cerebellum Alleviates Chronic, Treatment-Resistant Negative Symptoms of Schizophrenia in New Study

Schizophrenia is a chronic and disabling mental illness that affects more than three million Americans. Anti-psychotic medication can control schizophrenia’s psychotic symptoms, including the hallucinations and delusions that are well-known hallmarks of the disease. However, there are no effective treatments for the disease’s ‘negative symptoms’ – so-called because they involve a loss of normal function. The negative symptoms of schizophrenia include an inability to feel pleasure, a lack of motivation, and difficulty with non-verbal communication. These symptoms can seriously impact patients’ employment prospects, housing, relationships, and overall quality of life. In a first-of-its-kind study, researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) in Boston used imaging data to determine the underlying anatomical cause of schizophrenia’s negative symptoms and then applied non-invasive brain stimulation to ameliorate them. The scientists found, as they reported in an article published online on January 30, 2019 in the American Journal of Psychiatry, that these symptoms arise from a breakdown in a network between the brain’s prefrontal cortex and the cerebellum. Moreover, the team demonstrated that a novel type of non-invasive brain stimulation restored this crucial network’s function, which in turn improved schizophrenia’s most debilitating and treatment-resistant symptoms in patients with the disease.

Acoustic Liquid Handling Company (Labcyte) Acquired by Beckman Coulter Life Sciences to Expand Lab Automation Business

On January 30, 2019, Beckman Coulter Life Sciences announced its acquisition of Labcyte, a privately held, acoustic liquid handling company based in San Jose, California. Labcyte is best known for its Echo® acoustic droplet ejection technology, which uses sound waves to transfer tiny amounts of liquid with unequalled speed and accuracy. This technology—the centerpiece of Labcyte's Echo Liquid Handlers—enables walkaway convenience and integration capabilities. Labcyte technology enables faster and more cost-effective laboratory workflows in applications such as drug discovery and genomics. "Labcyte's unique product portfolio complements our existing liquid handling and laboratory automation business. It provides new opportunities to develop and enhance time-saving solutions for customer workflows," said Jonathan Pratt, President, Beckman Coulter Life Sciences. "Labcyte and Beckman Coulter Life Sciences share a common vision of advancing science through discovery, enabling the faster discovery and development of life-changing advances in medicine. Together we will make a powerful team, and an invaluable resource for current and future customers around the world." "It has been an exciting journey—from developing acoustic liquid-dispensing technology in a garage to establishing a global presence, and now to be joining forces with a life sciences technology leader," said Richard Ellson, CTO and a Founder of Labcyte. "Acoustic liquid handling is quickly becoming the backbone for high-throughput, automated workflows, and we look forward to accelerating growth and innovation as part of the Beckman Coulter Life Sciences team." Labcyte will transition into Beckman Coulter Life Sciences under the larger Danaher Life Sciences platform of companies, which generates approximately $6.5 billion in annual revenue.

January 30th

Transcriptomic Immaturity, Inducible by Neural Hyperexcitation, Is Shared by Multiple Neuropsychiatric Disorders, Including Schizophrenia, Alzheimer Disorders, and ALS; Gene Expression Patterns for Synaptic Function & Chromosomal Modification ID’d

Two gene expression patterns—decreases in maturity markers and increases in immaturity markers—have been found by a group that noted the need for biomarkers to improve diagnosis of neuropsychiatric disorders, which are often associated with excitatory/inhibitory imbalances in neural transmission and abnormal maturation. The researchers, from Fujita Health University and Astellis Pharma in Japan, and Astellis Research Institute of America in San Diego, characterized different disease conditions by mapping changes in the expression patterns of maturation-related genes whose expression had been altered by experimental neural hyperexcitation in published studies. The scientists found that genes for maturity markers were characterized over-representation of genes related to synaptic function, while the genes for immaturity markers were characterized by over-representation of genes related to chromosomal modification. The research team used these two groups of biomarker genes (maturity & immaturity markers) in a transdiagnostic analysis of 87 disease datasets for eight neuropsychiatric disorders and 12 datasets from corresponding animal models. The scientists found that transcriptomic pseudoimmaturity, inducible by neural hyperexcitation, is shared by multiple neuropsychiatric disorders, such as schizophrenia, Alzheimer disorders, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease). The research said that “our results indicate that this endophenotype serves as a basis for the transdiagnostic characterization of these disorders.” The new work was reported in article published online on January 22, 2019 in Communications Biology. The open-access article is titled “Transcriptomic Immaturity Inducible by Neural Hyperexcitation Is Shared by Multiple Neuropsychiatric Disorders.”

January 23rd

Genetic Alliance & LunaPBC Partner to Support Personal Health & Accelerate Medical Breakthroughs

On January 22, 2019, LunaPBC, founder of LunaDNA, the first community-owned genomic and health data platform, announced its partnership with Genetic Alliance, a non-profit dedicated to providing ordinary people with powerful tools to transform research. Over the course of 2019, the organizations will merge Genetic Alliance's Platform for Engaging Everyone Responsibly engagement platform with LunaDNA to provide individuals and communities with more resources to support health management while maximizing research opportunities. The partnership enables LunaPBC and Genetic Alliance to unite their shared mission and technologies to create seamless solutions to support individuals, disease foundations, and patient advocacy organizations, while also powering disease research at scale. Shared values across both organizations will ensure the ongoing focus of honoring a person’s preferences and rights for data transparency, privacy, and control, while accelerating science and creating shared value. In December 2018, LunaDNA received precedent-setting approval from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to recognize an individual’s health data as currency with which to acquire shares of ownership in the company. Researchers from non-profits, for-profits, disease organizations, and research communities can request access to the LunaDNA platform to conduct research studies. LunaDNA members’ de-identified, aggregated, and encrypted health data helps power research at the scope and scale needed for medical breakthroughs.

January 22nd

Craig Venter Praises Mike Hunkapiller for Huge Contribution to Sequencing of Human Genome While Leading Applied Biosystems (ABI); Statement Comes in Fireside Chat at PMWC 2019

Perhaps the highlight of a spectacular second day of the Precision Medicine World Conference (PMWC 2019), being held in Santa Clara, California January 20-23, was the late afternoon “Fireside Chat” among Ralph Snyderman, MD, Chancellor Emeritus, Duke University, & Director of the Duke Center for Personalized Health Care; J. Craig Venter, PhD, Founder & CEO, J. Craig Venter Institute; and Brook Byers, Senior Partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byer, and an early investor in Applied Biosystems and Genentech. In response to a BioQuick News question from a large audience (~400 top-level scientists) from the over 1,800 conference attendees from 35 countries, Dr. Venter said that he believed that the human genome would not have been sequenced, or certainly not sequenced as fast as it was, without the major technological contributions of Michael W. Hunkapiller, PhD (then President of Applied Biosystems (ABI), and now CEO & President, Pacific Biosciences), who had played a major role in the invention of the first automated DNA Sequencer in the laboratory of Leroy Hood, MD, PhD, at Cal Tech in the 1980’s. Dr. Venter also praised Dr. Hunkapiller for his more recent efforts leading the development of technology for long-read DNA sequencing (as many as 30,000 bases at one time) at Pacific Biosciences. Please stay tuned to BioQuick News for a more detailed article on this historic Fireside Chat in the coming days. Live hourly tweets from PMWC 2019 can be accessed at @JohnRONeill1 or #PMWC19. IMAGE: Photo shows Dr. Craig Venter with famed microbiologist Dr.

January 20th

World’s Premier Precision Medicine Conference (PMWC 2019) Opens 10th Annual Meeting in California’s Silicon Valley; Awards Given to Four Major Contributors to Advance of Precision Medicine

>The Precision Medicine World Conference (PMWC 2019) opened its tenth annual meeting ("Celebrating 10 Years of Precision Medicine Innovation) Sunday evening, January 20, in Santa Clara, Caifornia, with an awards ceremony honoring four distinguished contributors to the advance of precision medicine. ( Live tweets from the conference can be accessed on Twitter using @JohRONeill1 or #pmwc19 ). The award recipients were Carl June, MD, PhD, (Director, Center for Cellular Immunotherapies, University of Pennsylvania) for developing CAR-T therapy (the world’s first gene-based cancer therapy); Feng Zhang, PhD, (Professor, Neuroscience, MIT/Broad) for spearheading the development of optogenetics and CRISPR; George Yancopoulos, MD, PhD, (President & CSO & Director, Regeneron Pharmaceuticals) for developing foundational technologies designed to invent groundbreaking therapies; and Sharon Terry (President, Genetic Alliance) for initiating the movement to build systems for individuals to access and share health data. The master of ceremonies for the awards event was Dawn Berry (Co-Founder & President, Luna DNA) and she opened the evening by welcoming everyone and then introduced event organize Tal Behar (Co-Founder & President, PMWC, LLC) to make some opening remarks. Behar first expressed her thanks the Program Co-Chairs Nancy Davidson, MD (Director Clinical Research Division, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center), and India Hook-Barnard, PhD (Director Research Strategy, UCSF), and then introduced Program Chairman William Dalton, MD, PhD (former President, CEO & Center Director of the Moffitt Cancer Center) to kick off the awards ceremony. Dr.

January 18th

Mutations in Gene Associated with Hereditary Parkinson’s Disease Lead to Toxic Accumulation of Manganese

Researchers have found that mutations in a gene linked to hereditary forms of Parkinson’s disease — SLC30A10 — cause accumulation of toxic levels of manganese inside cells, which disturbs protein transport and alters nerve cell function, leading to parkinsonian symptoms. The study, titled “SLC30A10 Mutation Involved in Parkinsonism Results in Manganese Accumulation within Nanovesicles of the Golgi Apparatus” was published in the the January 16, 2019 issue of ACS Chemical Neuroscience. Manganese is an essential metal that helps enzymes carry out their functions in the body. However, too much manganese is toxic, especially for the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord), where its accumulation can lead to parkinsonian-like syndromes. The SLC30A10 gene encodes an important manganese transport protein, which sits at the membrane of cells and pumps out manganese, to protect cells against this metal’s toxicity. However, mutations in the SLC30A10 gene block the protein’s pumping activity, resulting in manganese accumulation. Mutations in this gene have been identified as the cause of new forms of hereditary Parkinson’s disease. “Understanding the means by which mutations in SLC30A10 alter cellular Mn [manganese] homeostasis [manganese equilibrium] is expected to enhance understanding of the principles underlying Mn toxicity itself,” researchers wrote, which may render important information to fight certain forms of familial Parkinson’s disease. A team of French researchers,together with colleagues from Germany and the United States, used advanced imaging techniques to find where manganese accumulates inside cells (cell lines available for laboratory research) carrying disease-causing SLC30A10 mutations versus cells carrying a normal, functional SLC30A10 gene (control cells).

January 18th

Genetic Variants Affecting N-Methyl-D-Aspartate Receptor (NMDAR) Implicated in Development of Schizophrenia

Genetic variants that prevent a neurotransmitter receptor from working properly have been implicated in the development of schizophrenia, according to research by scientists at the University College London (UCL) Genetics Institute. The N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor (NMDAR) is a protein that normally carries signals between brain cells in response to a neurotransmitter called glutamate. Previous research has shown that symptoms of schizophrenia can be caused by drugs that block NMDAR or by antibodies that attack it. Genetic studies have also suggested that molecules associated with NMDAR might be involved in the development of schizophrenia. "These results, and others which are emerging, really focus attention on abnormalities in NMDAR functioning as a risk factor for schizophrenia. Given all the pre-existing evidence, it seems tempting to conclude that genetic variants which by one means or another reduce NMDAR activity could increase the risk of schizophrenia," said Professor David Curtis (UCL Genetics, Evolution & Environment), the psychiatrist who is the senior author of the article reporting the recent findings. For the study, the results of which were published online on January 16, 2019 in Psychiatric Genetics, the DNA sequences of over 4,000 people with schizophrenia and 5,000 controls were used to study variants in the three genes that code for NMDAR (GRIN1, GRIN2A and GRIN2B) and a fourth (FYN), that codes for a protein called Fyn, which controls NMDAR functioning.

January 16th

Review Examines the Impact of Genome Doubling on Biology of the Cell; Considers Polyploidy, Nucleotype, and Novelty

In an open-access review article titled "Polyploidy, the Nucleotype, and Novelty: The Impact of Genome Doubling on the Biology of the Cell," that was published in the January 2019 print issue of the International Journal of Plant Sciences(180: 1-52), Dr. Jeff J. Doyle and Dr. Jeremy E. Coate examine the effects of genome doubling on cell biology and the generation of novelty in plants. Polyploid organisms are those containing more than two paired (homologous) sets of chromosomes, and polyploidy is common across many plant species. This "genome doubling" generates evolutionary novelty and is a prime facilitator of new species. How polyploidy alters cells to generate novelty, however, is complex, and, as Dr. Doyle (School of Integrative Plant Science, Plant Breeding and Genetics Section, Cornell University) and Dr. Coate (Biology Department, Reed College) illustrate, not well understood, even on a fundamental level. Rapidly developing technology, however, will enable researchers to shed light, not only on this integral part of plant evolution and biology, but also on the function of cells in general. Many of the documented effects of genome doubling on cells, such as increases in cell size, nuclear volume, and cell cycle duration, are hypothesized to be "nucleotypic" – i.e., effects induced by changes in bulk DNA amount, irrespective of genotype. Dr. Doyle and Dr. Coate update our understanding of the nucleotype and other mechanisms by which genome doubling can alter cell biology, highlighting insights gained from studies of synthetic autopolyploids and relating these to the current state of knowledge in the field of cell biology. Cell size, in particular, was of great interest to the authors, because it is strongly associated with genome doubling.