Science Roundup – July 19, 2014

This week witnessed a horrifying plane crash in Ukraine. Another Malaysian Airlines flight went down – this time shot down by a missile. Almost 300 lives were lost in this crash. Among the people killed on this flight was a group of AIDS researchers, traveling to the International AIDS Conference to be held in Australia. The entire AIDS research is in a state of shock. “These were men and women who had dedicated their own lives to saving the lives of others, and they were taken from us in a senseless act of violence,” said President Barack Obama at a White House news conference.

Here’s a roundup of other articles and news on genomics, medicine, business and policy from this week.

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Sciberomics Weekly Roundup (Image Credit:

Science and Medicine

Malaria and resistance to drugs

Resistance is an emerging problem for drugs used to treat malaria. Newer, more effective approaches are necessary to counter this scourge. Now, researchers from Australia report in a recent study published in Nature about a protein designated PTEX that can form a novel drug target against malaria.

Gene Therapy and the heart

A study published this week demonstrates that ordinary cardiac muscle cells can be converted into specialized cells that beat steadily. These cells were converted by using a gene therapy procedure. If successful, this procedure may replace implanted electronic pacemakers for cardiac patients with rhythm abnormalities.

We choose our friends wisely!

It has always been a mystery as to how we “choose” friends. Now genetics or genomics may have the answer. Or at least, an answer. A recent study using genome-wide association studies (GWAS) shows that we pick friends who have more DNA in common with us than those we do not. Friends are as similar genetically as fourth cousins (~1% genes similar).

Gut microbiome and disease

Our gut is home to hundreds of thousands of microbes that are increasingly being recognized as being important in maintaining our health. However, the question still remains whether sequencing the gut microbiome is of any value in predicting the health. This article discusses how we can detect changes in our health by looking at our microbiome.

Clinical Studies

New Alzheimer’s Trial

In partnership with Banner Alzheimer’s Institute from Phoenix, AZ, Novartis will conduct a clinical study to test experimental drugs for patients with Alzheimer’s who are genetically predisposed to the disease but without symptoms. The two test drugs will target the amyloid protein that accumulates in the brains of Alzheimer’s disease patients. This study will be funded in part by the National Institutes of Health, through a $33.2 million grant.


Approval for CombiMatrix test

The molecular diagnostics company, CombiMatrix Corporation recently developed a chromosomal microarray analysis (CMA) test that can identify development disorders in children with developmental delays, birth defects, physical deformities or autism or autism spectrum disorder. This test was conditionally approved by the New York Department of Health for patient samples.


Translation of Genomics - Illumina buys Myraqa

The sequencing giant Illumina recently acquired Myraqa, a consulting firm that specializes in companion diagnostics. Experts believe that this deal will strengthen Illumina’s capabilities to take genomics into the clinic. Myraqa is expected to provide Illumina with expertise in regulatory, quality, clinical, biostatistics and development, focusing on regulatory strategy and application support.

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