December 2010

1 December 2010

The future of public health?

The latest PHG Foundation publication, Public health in an era of genome-based and personalised medicine, is the report from a collaborative international summit of experts, and sets out recommendations for the future public health agenda, including for low and middle-income countries. Meanwhile, PHG Foundation Chairman Ron Zimmern has called for public health to take a 21st century approach by embracing the potential of biological science and genomics as a tool for improving population health (see GenomeWeb).

Policy, funding and regulation

Stem cell research funding has been announced for new centres in Denmark (23 November) and Australia (12 December), although questions have been raised with respect to overall Australian government funding for the field. In Wales, a new cancer genetics centre has opened (7 December), and major UK research funding bodies have set out principles to boost public engagement (8 December). In the US, a ‘prudent vigilance’ approach has been recommended for regulation of synthetic biology (1 December), and final clarifications of the genetic non-discrimination law have been released (30 November).

Genetic sequencing and analysis

A significant new study from the father of non-invasive prenatal diagnosis Dennis Lo has reported the genomic profiling of a fetus, a new technique that could be used for the diagnosis of autosomal recessive conditions (9 December); whole exome sequencing has identified new causes of mental retardation (22 November). However, the EGAPP group has published findings suggesting that genomic testing is currently of little value for the prediction of cardiovascular disease (18 November), and the utility of expanded carrier screening panels for cystic fibrosis has been called into question (25 November). PHG Foundation Director Hilary Burton has joined the editorial board for PLoS Currents: Evidence on Genomic Testing, which provides fast-track peer-review publication of new research (23 November).

Genetics and disease

Guidelines to encourage increased participation in genetic research by developing countries have been published this month (3 December). A large-scale meta-analysis has identified new genetic variants associated with susceptibility to Crohn’s disease (26 November) and a small study identified a link between common genetic variants and a common form of penile abnormality (2 December). Other research has proposed new links between genetic mutations and disorders of sexual development (10 December).

Other biomedical research and development

A pioneering new clinical trial has begun using stem cells to treat stoke patients (18 November). Researchers have created programmable RNA circuits to control aspects of human cell function (6 December), but pharmaceutical giant Roche has announced that it will no longer pursue research into RNA inteference as a potential therapeutic (2 December).

New reviews and commentaries

Our selection of recent articles of interest (1 December)

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.