Genetics & Molecular Biology

In case you haven’t been keeping up-to-date with the latest news in the biotechnology regulatory system (and how could you not?), the system is under revision. As part of the new Coordinated Framework the FDA stated it would clarify how it will deal with the hot-button topic of genome editing, and update its guidance documents accordingly. As part of this process the FDA opened a docket on regulations.gov to receive public comments about the issue. As you might expect, a large majority of the comments have been less than scientific.

They are asking for your evidence-based input.  Please give it to them!

Metabolism, the set of processes through which we gain energy from food and produce the biomolecules we need in our body's cells, is universal to life. The biochemical pathways that underpin these processes are highly similar across all organisms and species. 
Genetic variants linked to autism spectrum disorders (ASD) contribute to enhanced cognition and are therefore positively selected in spite of the problems they also bring along – new evidence has just been published in PLOS Genetics [1]. The problems these genes bring along are the price to pay for relatively rapid evolutionary advancements. It needs a much longer time for further natural selection to smooth the bugs out – this is all obvious, simple science. Another example is the genetic predisposition of Ashkenazim Jews to diseases such as Tai-Sachs, which comes along with their high average verbal IQ, also a relatively recent evolutionary advancement.
With the availability of Arctic Apples around the corner, there are a lot of questions swirling about how the browning is suppressed when the apple is exposed to air.   The browning process has great implications for the value of fruits and fruit products.  This natural discoloration leads to less consumption of fruit, as well as substantial economic loss and food waste.


In what seems like a scene from the movie Groundhog Day, another rat study has come out of the laboratory of Dr. Giles-Eric Séralini, only in this case it is Roundup and not GMOs that are under fire. When I read the title of the paper, “Multiomics reveal non-alcoholic fatty liver disease in rats following chronic exposure to an ultra-low dose of Roundup herbicide”, 

 Daily Mail A large-scale international study involving 700,000 participants has revealed 83 genetic variations controlling human height. 
CRISPR/Cas9 gene-editing technology, a way to generate very precise gene knock-out kits, has now been used to produce cows with resistance to bovine tuberculosis.

Bovine TB, caused by Mycobacterium bovis, can be transmitted from livestock to humans, primarily if raw milk is consumed (just one reason to embrace post-1860 science about food, namely pasteurization), and even other animals. 

The email was simple enough. It was a request from a member of the press asking “I would appreciate your reaction/comments to the recently published study on GMO corn for an article I am putting together on it. Deadline: Wednesday 4 January.”

Mitochondrial dysfunction, which leads to rare genetic disorders in children, some forms of heart disease, and most likely some cases of Parkinson’s disease, is bewildering in the variety and complexity of problems it can cause. 

Mitochondria are, after all, the energy factories contained inside most of our cells, they convert the diverse food we consume into a common energy type. No energy, no life. 

Vitamin D, which is produced by the body through exposure to sunshine, helps the body control calcium and phosphate levels, important for healthy bones. It can also be obtained from food sources such as fatty fish and egg yolks but it can be difficult to obtain enough vitamin D from food alone in countries with little sunlight so food is often fortified. 

For the benefit of the never-ending supplement fad industry, some papers have linked vitamin D deficiency with a host of health problems including cardiovascular disease, cognitive impairment, autoimmune conditions, and now Vitamin D levels have been linked to an increased risk of bladder cancer, though the source is a systematic review of just seven studies so it may not warrant a panic attack just yet.