Resources and opportunities

New resources now available are a short guide to the use of arrayCGH for diagnosis of the genetic causes of learning disability, and a podcast on non-invasive prenatal diagnosis from the Australian ABC Radio National programme featuring our Head of Science Dr Caroline Wright. Of potential interest to our UK-based readers, the Human Genetics Commission, a body that advises the Government on human genetics and related ethical, legal and social issues, is currently seeking applications for new members from a variety of backgrounds. 

Genomic sequencing

Potential medical applications of whole-genome sequencing have been prominent in the news this month. Developing individualised cancer diagnostics for improved and earlier detection (18 February) generated a significant amount of media attention (for example, see the Guardian news article), whilst two new papers have highlighted the growing potential for investigation of families with rare inherited conditions (14 March). An Australian insurance company has generated controversy by offering half-price genome scans (26 February) and a new paper reports on the human gut microbiome (4 March). 

Legal and regulatory issues

The UK Human Tissue Authority has issued a warning against unlicensed collection of umbilical cord blood at birth for stem cell banking (9 March), whilst in the US the official definition of human embryonic stem cells has been widened (24 February). The PHG Foundation has joined other organisations in supporting calls for reform of English libel laws amid concerns of abuse with respect to scientific evidence (8 March). 

Research partnerships

New initiatives have been announced to boost biomedical research, including plans for a partnership to combine regulatory development with genetic and pharmacogenetic research (25 February), an alliance to create an Asian cancer genomics database (15 March), and a new centre for genomics knowledge (28 February). 

Biomarkers and disease

A new study found no improvement in cardiovascular disease risk prediction from the use of genetic risk factors (2 March), but other research suggested that telomeric length might serve as a biomarker for cognitive ageing (17 February) and that autoantibodies detected by microarrays could have as cancer biomarkers for earlier diagnosis (18 February). Another potential cancer biomarker has also been found with the identification of cancer-specific mitochondrial mutations that could be easier to detect than changes in the main, nuclear DNA (11 March). 

New reviews and commentaries

Our selection of recent articles of interest (2 March

Other recent news and research

See also the Genomics & Health Weekly Update from the CDC Office of Public Health Genomics and the GenInfo Monthly Newsletter from HumGen.