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News and insights in the world of DNA and genetics for paternity, immigration and forensics

Archive for January, 2010 Monthly Archives

I just came across an article distributed by WebVet announcing the above topic. This brought my thinking to  pets health in general.

By Claire Douglass for WebVet
Reviewed by Amy I. Attas, V.M.D.
All content on WebVet is reviewed annually by Vets to guarantee its timeliness and accuracy.
Article last reviewed – 8/1/2009

Some household cleaning products are loaded with chemicals, and can be harmful to your pet after prolonged exposure. Today, rates of canine cancer are increasing, following the same trend of rates of human cancers, which has caused researchers to look more closely at a shared environmental pathogenesis.

We are not immune to airborne toxins in the home. According to a 1992 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency publication “Targeting Indoor Air Pollution,” the air inside the typical home is an average of 2-5 times more polluted than the air outside, and in extreme cases, it can be up to 100 times more contaminated – largely because of household cleaners and pesticides.

According to the EPA more than 50 percent of indoor pollution is a direct result of household cleaning products. Pets and their owners are all vulnerable to the effects of perpetual exposure to the chemicals in these products.  The risks that people face being exposed to cleaning products increases with duration of exposure.  Stay at home or people who work at home have a reported 54 percent increased risk of cancer pets and companion animals are at even greater risk due to their faster metabolisms and smaller lungs. Pets process these chemicals at a faster rate and absorb more of these toxins into their bloodstreams as they breathe them in more rapidly.

According to the Morris Animal Foundation, an initiative to research and cure canine cancer that is endorsed by the Children’s Oncology Group, Animal Cancer Foundation, MIT/Harvard (Broad Institute), and the Mayo Clinic, one in four dogs will die of cancer. Cancer is the No. 1 cause of disease-related death in dogs over the age of two. The National Cancer Institute, the global leader in human cancer research, has included the study of cancer in dogs within its Comparative Oncology Program since 2003.

There are solution to this issue.  There are many affordable lines of organic cleaning products available at most grocery stores, as well as countless books and articles on making one’s own effective household cleaners for far less than the cost of conventional cleaning products.  I like apple vinegar mixed with water because it smells fresh and can be used on any surface as well as cutting through residue and lingering smells.

By using the numerous organic cleaning products now so readily available, or by saving money and easily making your own cleaning products, both pet and owner can breathe easier and live healthier lives.

Web Vet

Reported in the December issue of Molecular Cancer Research, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research; researchers at the University of Florida have been able to just use a fraction of the normal dosage of a highly toxic, debilitating chemotherapy drug to achieve even better results in the fight against colon cancer cells.

Scientist say that more research is needed before the therapy can be tested in patients, but the discovery in human colon cancer cell lines and mice with established human tumors suggests that the addition of a small molecule to the cancer drug Temozolomide disrupts repair mechanisms in a type of tumor cells that is highly resistant to treatment.

Satya Narayan professor of anatomy and cell biology at the college of Medicine and a member of the University of Florida Shands Cancer Center said that, “This is very important because aside from aggressive surgery with possibly chemotherapy, there are no specific treatments for colon cancer. The recurrence rate for this type of cancer after surgery is very high, about 30 to 50 percent, and there is an urgent need to develop new approaches to manage this deadly disease.”

The National Cancer Institute estimates there will be about 106,000 new cases of colon cancer in the United States in by the end of 2009. It is the second most common cause of cancer-related death in both men and women in the Western hemisphere.

Colon cancer forms in the large intestine and survival rates vary according to how soon the cancer is diagnosed and the treatment is started. The challenge of treating patients is that colon cancer is not a single disease but an array of disorders with distinct molecular mechanisms, with one type being quite proficient at repairing the DNA damage inflicted by the drugs currently used to treat the disease.

Narayan’s research team evaluated more than 140,000 small molecules, finally arriving at a tiny molecule that precisely blocks the ability of cancer cells to recognize and repair the DNA damage inflicted by Temozolomide, or TMZ. Narayan said, “Our idea was if you induce DNA damage (with TMZ), and at the same time block cell repair, you can synergize toxic effects to the cancer cells. We hope that with this combination treatment we can reduce the tumors drastically and expand the lifetime of patients much longer than is currently possible.”

TMZ is commonly used against certain types of brain cancer. It works by damaging the DNA of the cancer. By combining TMZ with the small molecule, Narayan’s team was able to disable the colon cancer’s ability to manufacture repair enzymes.

The UF researchers effectively used an amount of TMZ that is about 10 times lower than recommended in its studies of mice with human colon cancer tumors. According to Narayan, if only about one-tenth as much TMZ is needed to kill cancer cells, it will be possible to use lower doses of a drug that creates a great deal of adverse side effects, a partial listing of which includes anxiety, back pain, breast pain, constipation, cough, diarrhea, dizziness, drowsiness, dry skin, hair loss, headache, joint pain, loss of appetite, mouth sores, muscle aches and nausea.

“By using these strategies we can predict that disruption of DNA repair by small molecules can bypass drug resistance factors and dramatically reduce side effects caused by toxic doses of TMZ,” Narayan said.

More study is needed before the combination can be tested in patients, but Narayan believes that TMZ can be combined with the small molecule in a single dose in pill or capsule form.

Sankar Mitra, Ph.D., a professor in the department of biochemistry and molecular biology at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, who did not participate in the study, said that, the research demonstrates that it is possible to sensitize colon cancer cells to TMZ more broadly than is now possible — a benefit of particular importance to patients with cancers that are as varied as colon cancer. “This could be the start of other small molecule inhibitors”

Sankar Mitra also noted that the therapeutic molecules were selected through sophisticated analysis of the structure of tens of thousands of potential small molecules from the National Cancer Institute database. The computer-based process, which can suggest likely cancer therapeutics within hours, replacing manual analysis which would normally have taken weeks or months.

Robert W. Sobol, Ph.D., an assistant professor of pharmacology and chemical biology, and human genetics, at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute said that, “There have been a multitude of studies suggesting that inhibition of DNA polymerase beta would enhance chemotherapeutic response. However, potential inhibitors have been challenging to identify and most have proven to be non-specific and/or non-selective. The compound identified by Dr. Narayan appears to be the first in what I expect to be a growing list of DNA polymerase beta inhibitors that have clinical potential.”

The research was supported by grants from the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health.

Science Daily

A blood test that can determine the gender and genetic abnormalities in a unborn baby as early as five weeks has proven to be successful according to Dutch researchers.  The researchers claim that the test has almost 100 per cent accuracy in determining the fetus’s gender.

The blood test uses the mother’s plasma to extract Genetic information about their unborn baby.  The test can be used to determine if the unborn baby carries specific genetic abnormalities, such as muscular dystrophy, this test can be conducted shortly after conception.

Currently, testing for genetic abnormalities and gender cannot be carried out until at least 9 weeks and as late as 24 weeks.  The current methods of testing are either through a Chorionic Villus Sampling (CVS) or an Amniocentesis.

Chorionic Villus Sampling (CVS) is a medical procedure conducted by an OBGYN that is typically performed between 9 – 13 weeks gestational age, which is often mistakenly referred to Chronic Villus (or Villi) Sampling. CVS is a vaginal procedure that removes a very small portion of the placenta.

Amniocentesis is a medical procedure conducted by an OBGYN that is typically performed between 14 – 24 weeks gestational age. The amniocentesis procedure involves insertion of a needle into the womb and drawing out approximately 10cc’s of amniotic fluid, which surrounds the unborn baby.

Professor Michael Chapman, head of women’s and children’s health at the University of NSW, said that this new testing method was the “holy grail” of research.  “Scientists have been chasing this for about 25 years,” he said. “The biggest advantage of this in a wanted pregnancy is there is no risk of miscarriage during testing.”

The research team from the University Medical Center, in The Netherlands, used the test on 200 women. Only in 10 cases could the gender not be determined.  The procedure works by taking a sample from the mother’s blood plasma and extracting fetal DNA, which circulates in the mother’s blood. Looking for a specific gene sequence, doctors can then determine if the baby is a boy or a girl and is a carrier of specific disorders.  In most cases, the test will be performed on a seven-week-old fetus.

But Australian obstetricians warn the medical breakthrough is unlikely to be used in Australia because it could be used for gender selection and due to “ethical and moral” dilemmas.

The test did not address the fact that fetal DNA that is found in a mother’s blood can be from previous pregnancies even years later.  The research have not address how to determine if the DNA is from the current fetus.  While their are some DNA testing companies that have offered to use “simple” blood test to determine paternity for several years.  These test can often be unreliable.   While this new test promise great answer at no risk there are still some very big questions that haven’t been answered.

News.com.au

I just came accost this article on the DNA Read the World website.  It was really interesting.  DNA really is helping fill in missing pieces of information in our knowledge.

New Insight Into Horse Evolution Friday, December 11, 2009 18:35 IST

Scientists at the Australian Center for Ancient DNA (ACAD) based at the University of Adelaide are studying ancient DNA from extinct horse species have discovered new evidence on the evolution of Equidae over the past 55 million years.

Only the modern horse, zebras, wild asses and donkey survive today, but many other lineages have become extinct over the last 50,000 years.

“Our results change both the basic picture of recent equid evolution, and ideas about the number and nature of extinct species,” Cooper said.  The study used bones from caves to identify new horse species in Eurasia and South America, and reveal that the Cape zebra, an extinct giant species from South Africa, were simply large variants of the modern Plains zebra.

Study’s lead author, Dr Ludovic Orlando, from the University of Lyon, said that the research team discovered a new species of the distinct, small hippidion horse in South America.  “Previous fossil records suggested this group was part of an ancient lineage from North America but the DNA showed these unusual forms were part of the modern radiation of equid species,” Orlando said.

“This has serious implications for biodiversity and the future impacts of climate change,” Cooper added

This study does not appear to have immediate consequences it continues to add to our knowledge of the world on which we live.  The bones that were studied come from different time periods and many show that these animals became extinct more recently than previously though some as recently as 50,000 years ago.  This study also suggest that we have under-estimated how much a single species can vary over time and space, and mistakenly assumed more diversity among extinct species than were possible.  While most children study Charles Darwin’s theory of Evolution it is sometimes easy to forget that each species changes over time.

This article provides food for though regarding the environment around us and how it has been changing over time.

The study has been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
National Academy of Sciences

There are many organizations world wide that are trying desperately to help find missing children.  South African Provincial Police are trying to set up a National DNA Database of Children to assist in locating missing children.  Officers are trying to use media, movie theaters, banks and even air lines to show video clops showing pictures and details of the over 114 children who are missing in the provinces.  They are also planning to ask malls, trains and taxi operators to distribute pamphlets with photos and details of the missing children

Police announced these plans as officers continued searching for six-year-old Okuhle and three-year-old Mabaxole Maqhubela, the latest additions to the province’s list of missing children. They disappeared in Laingsburg last week on their way from East London to Cape Town by taxi.

During a weekly press briefing, provincial visible policing head Robbie Roberts, said missing children were one of the “biggest concerns” in the South Africa.  According to Roberts “on a daily basis a lot of children are reported missing.”

Roberts warned parents not to leave their children alone or let them out of their sight.  “And ask yourself when you put your children in the care of somebody, do you really know that person? Do you really trust that person?”

Roberts urged parents to tag their children, including on the tag the child’s name and the parents’ contact details, especially when taking their children to a large public area like a beach. “It’s unbelievable how many children get lost on a beach in one day,” he said.

Roberts said children needed to be taught their home address and parents’ cellphone or landline number. “Once recovered, we find it difficult to get this information from children.” He also urged parents to take photographs of their children so they would always have a recent one.

Provincial Police Commissioner Mzwandile Petros had tasked Roberts, other NGOs, to come up with a more effective plan to tackle the problem.

In the most recent missing children case, Roberts said officers had been unable to find recent photographs of Okuhle Maqhubela and her brother, Mabaxole. The brother and sister went missing from a petrol station in Laingsburg at midnight during a trip from East London to Cape Town, where they would have been reunited with their mother.

Roberts said police in the province would approach the national office to have an identity kit they had created for children, to be distributed in the Western Cape and the rest of the country, if approved.

Once filled out and completed, the kit would include details of the child, a recent photograph, his or her fingerprints, a DNA sample, his or her blood type and details of his or her parents. Dessie Rechner, founder of the NGO Pink Ladies which helps police with search operations, said she was “extremely excited” about the identity kit and proposed database.

Missing children are a huge concern international. Many laboratories are trying to assist in the search for missing children. DNA Identifiers offers a Child Safety Identification Kit like the one described in the article to help keep children safe.

Child Safety Kit

More about this article

I just came across an article distributed by the Global Press Release Distribution about the above topic. This brought my thinking to the use of DNA in general, and about the ethics of cloning specifically.

Dan Vergano, USA TODAY. Scientists have cloned man’s best friend for the first time, creating a genetic duplicate of a 3-year-old male Afghan hound, South Korean scientists reported Wednesday

The puppy was born in April to its surrogate mom, a Labrador retriever. His name: Snuppy, short for Seoul National University puppy. The team of scientists there that cloned the dog, led by Hwang Woo Suk, is the same one that first cloned human embryonic stem cells last year. Their achievement is reported in the journal Nature. Researchers have cloned other animals, but dog cloning has posed a particular challenge. And the difficulties have alarmed some animal advocates and researchers.

There are benefits of cloning your pet according to the Seoul National University, but there are also many groups that are questioning the ethics involved in cloning.

USA Today

Ontario judge Fred Graham dismissed a paternity suit against actor Keanu Reeves, stating that any trial would be “a waste of limited judicial resources.”

The suit was brought by Karen Sala who alleged that Reeves was the father of her four adult children.  Ms. Sala, who lives in Barrie a town some 100 kilometers north of Toronto, sought $3 million a month in spousal support, retroactive to November 2006. She also wanted $150,000 a month in child support, going back to June 1988 for her kids, now 25, 23, 22 and 21.

Judge Fred Graham told the court that Ms. Sala’s allegations were “so incredible” no reasonable judge would accept them.  The lawyer for Mr. Reeve had earlier told court a DNA test showed Reeves was not the father of Ms. Sala’s adult children. Ms. Sala questioned validity of the test, maintaining she had a sexual relationship with Reeves before, during and after her marriage.  She also claimed that they had lived together and that Mr. Reeve was present at the birth of some of her children.

Mr. Reeves has vehemently denied ever having met Ms. Sala.

Court heard yesterday Ms. Sala raised several issues with the DNA results, including the possibility of tampering or that Mr. Reeves used hypnosis to affect the results.  Ms. Sala told the judge that, “I do know for a fact he is the biological father,” she added she had proof but could not show it to the court.  Ms. Sala said she had known Reeves since she was four or five, as Reeves grew up down the street from her. She didn’t connect him to the actor until much later, because she always knew him by several different names, she said. “I didn’t know he was Keanu Reeves,” Ms. Sala said. “To me he was Marty Spencer.”

Lawyer Lorne Wolfson, representing Mr. Reeves, suggested Ms. Sala’s ex-husband is in fact father of the children, as is stated in their divorce proceedings.  Ms. Sala declined to bring a motion to have her ex-husband’s DNA tested, Wolfson said.  In her affidavit, Ms. Sala said Reeves uses hypnosis and disguises himself as different people, including her ex-husband, Wolfson said.

Associated Press Writer, JEFF CARLTON, released a story on January 7, 2010, regarding a convict who had been convicted on rape charges of a Texas Tech University student in 1985. The wrongly convicted man, Tim Cole, was an Army Veteran who died in a prison in 1999 at the age of 39.  A 2008 DNA test proved his innocence, 13 years after another man confessed in a series of letters to Lubbock County prosecutors and judges.

Cole’s family sought the pardon. The State Governor, Perry, though expressing sympathy, maintained he didn’t believe he was legally permitted to issue one. However, Cole’s brother tells The Associated Press that a Perry aide says the governor will pardon Cole.

La Times