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Genomics Week in Brief: Week ending 17th November

Welcome back to Week in Brief, your number one stop for all the latest omics news.

We’ll start with this week’s biggest update…

  • The UK is the first country to approve the use of a CRISPR-based gene therapy to treat sickle cell disease. This is the world’s first authorised CRISPR-based therapeutic, a landmark development that could change the healthcare landscape (UK Government).

What other human diseases have been in the spotlight this week?

  • Two recently published studies have detailed genetic mechanisms underpinning ALS. These findings could contribute to new treatments for the devastating condition (Science Advances and Cell Reports).
  • A new study has investigated whether variants linked to inflammatory bowel disease in those of European ancestry is also present in those of African ancestry. The researchers discovered these variants do not play a significant role in the disease in the latter population (Genome Medicine).
  • Researchers have obtained new understanding of the longevity of neutralising antibodies in patients infected with HIV-1. This knowledge could contribute to the development of a vaccine for the deadly virus (Nature Medicine).
  • Researchers have identified a crucial gene for pancreatic development in humans that is not widely conserved in other animals. This finding is significant in understanding the development of type 1 diabetes (Nature Genetics).
  • Scientists have detailed how a mutation in microglia can lead to a proinflammatory response and a significantly increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease (GLIA).

COVID-19 has been in the news again…

  • Researchers internationally are calling for large-scale genome surveillance that was employed during the COVID-19 pandemic to be applied to antimicrobial resistance (The Lancet Microbe).
  • A study of lung autopsy samples from patients who died of COVID-19 has revealed that the virus causes epigenetic scars on the lungs (Chest).

And there are several updates in cancer research…

  • Scientists have detailed the process underpinning a DNA repair pathway often implicated in breast, ovarian and prostate cancers (Nature).
  • In a bid to understand how cancer stem cells evade the immune system, researchers have discovered that these cells induce aging in otherwise healthy macrophages (Journal of Immunotherapy for Cancer).
  • Clinicians may be able to predict brain tumour recurrence and optimal treatment plans using gene expression data, according to a new study (Nature Medicine).
  • CAR T cell therapy has been revolutionary in the fight against cancer, but improvements could still be made. A new study has revealed that disrupting a single gene in these cells could lead to increased potency (Cancer Discovery).

What else has gone on this week?

  • Research has identified a cellular structure known as a stress granule that acts as a form of ‘molecular plaster’, repairing macrophages during infection by bacteria like tuberculosis (Nature).
  • A study has suggested that using pharmacogenomic testing to pick out the best medication for those suffering from depression could lead to substantial health and financial benefits (CMAJ).

Check out last week’s Week in Brief here.