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Genomics week in brief: Week ending 26th November

Check out the latest Genomics Week in Brief – full of intriguing news and research from the genomics space!

Top stories from the past week:

  • Researchers have developed a new CRISPR method, utilising natural bacterial mechanisms called transposons to move thousands of bases around the genome (Nucleic Acids Research).
  • Genetically engineered chimeric antigen receptor T (CAR-T) cells, previously only used in cancer treatments, have been used for the first time to treat the autoimmune condition lupus (Cell).
  • Scientists have successfully used artificial intelligence to assist with the production of synthetic DNA to control gene expression. It is hoped that the technique can be used in future development of drugs and vaccines (Nature).
  • MYC proteins – drivers of cancer growth and proliferation – have been observed to form spheres around cancer cell DNA, protecting it from natural destructive mechanisms (Nature).
  • A recent pre-print has described the development of novel mRNA vaccines to combat monkeypox, which showed promising results in mice (bioRxiv).
  • A new viral vector for the delivery of genetic material to cells has been developed. The novel adenovirus-associated vector characterised by scientists at MIT and Harvard is able to cross the blood-brain barrier, a vital feature for treating certain diseases (Med).
  • In the largest study of its kind, scientists have uncovered genetic risk factors for osteoarthritis using data from the Million Veteran Program and UK Biobank (Nature).
  • Researchers have identified a group of DNA sequences which rapidly diverged following humans’ split from chimpanzees. They are responsible for switching other genes on and off, and are thought to impact brain development and digestion (Cell).
  • Genetic variation in the major histocompatibility complex has been linked to decreased susceptibility to COVID-19 in the “super elderly” (Frontiers in Immunology).
  • Metrics governing the development of stem cell-derived organoids for use in research have been uncovered by scientists from the Max Planck Institute (Nature).
  • A study into the tumour microenvironment in a common form of lung cancer has identified changes to the structure of the extracellular matrix in some patients. The findings could potentially be used to predict prognosis and treatment response (BMC Genomic Medicine).
  • An investigation of over 35,000 individuals has uncovered rare variation in the ATP8B4 and ABCA1 genes that is linked to the onset of Alzheimer’s disease (Nature).

In other news:

  • Scientists have developed a “universal flu vaccine” that they believe can protect against 20 types of influenza. The technology, which comes off the back of successful COVID-19 mRNA vaccines, could protect against viruses with “pandemic potential” – possibly saving millions of lives (BBC).
  • NASA’s Artemis spacecraft has successfully reached the moon and has sent pictures back to Earth. This is a promising step for the Artemis mission, which will see the first woman and first person of colour set foot on the moon (BBC).
  • Ireland and France have signed up to the 1+ Million Genomes initiative. Launched in 2018, the collaboration seeks to improve health data sharing across borders (European Commission).