ASCLS eNewsBytes
Jun. 12, 2012

An unborn baby gets its DNA sequenced; cause
for celebration — or alarm?

Suspended in the blood of a pregnant woman — along with some added information from a dad-to-be's saliva — lurks enough fetal DNA to map out an unborn baby's entire genetic blueprint. It may sound like something conjured by Jules Verne, but it happened at the University of Washington: a professor and his graduate student used DNA samples from the parents of a baby boy who was still in utero and reconstructed his entire genetic makeup from A to Z. The account, published in Science Translational Medicine, takes prenatal testing to new heights, promising a motherlode of genetic information about a child who had not even been born — along with a corresponding trove of data that even experts don't yet know how to interpret.More

Officials probe E. coli outbreak in 6 states
The Associated Press via CBS News
A mysterious and scattered outbreak of the E. coli bacteria affecting six states is linked to 14 illnesses, including a child's death, health officials say. No form of contaminated food or other cause has been identified in the illnesses, which occurred in April and May, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Three people were hospitalized and one — a child in the New Orleans area — died. More

Serum biomarkers predict ankylosing spondylitis progression
Medscape Medical News
New research has shown for the first time that serum biomarkers can predict progression of ankylosing spondylitis in patients already at high risk for progression, Joachim Sieper, M.D., Ph.D., said at the European League Against Rheumatism Congress 2012. Using the biomarkers, it might be possible to identify patients who will benefit from early intervention, specifically continuous treatment with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, he said.More

Should patients be told about incidental findings from clinical lab tests?
Dark Daily
When a genetic test for a certain type of cancer provides additional information that could affect the patient's health, what is the ethical course of action for pathologists and clinical laboratory scientists? Should this information be disclosed to the physician who ordered that cancer test? In turn, should that physician inform his or her patient about these "incidental findings?" All medical laboratory professionals will soon find themselves regularly dealing with this challenge because of the rapid increase in the number of molecular diagnostic assays and genetic tests that produce large quantities of data about the patient.More

Infectious diseases may have helped humans evolve
Medical Daily
One mystery about human evolution is how modern man came to be. The answer may lie in our ancestors' ability to protect themselves from deadly infectious diseases, according to a new study.More

Even low TnT rises predict death after noncardiac surgery
Medscape Medical News
Elevations in troponin T after noncardiac surgery, even to levels often considered low risk, can warn of cardiac injury that significantly raises short-term mortality but might otherwise go unnoticed, according to investigators from a large international study. They say their analysis, based on a patient cohort 15,000 strong and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, supports TnT testing as a routine practice after noncardiac surgeries.More

Breast cancer: Blood test spots wayward tumor cells
ABC News
A simple blood test can help predict the recurrence of breast cancer, a new study has found. The question is: Will it save lives? The test detects cancer cells in the blood that have broken free from a tumor in the breast, like seeds that have fallen from a tree. More

Not just for big centers: molecular testing for lung cancer
Medscape Medical News
Molecular testing of lung cancer tissue samples on a local level is feasible and enables personalized treatment, according to a study of a model testing network in Germany, presented in Chicago at the 2012 annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology. The study addressed a "major challenge" in lung cancer — implementing molecular diagnostics in routine clinical practice outside of big academic centers, according to the authors, led by Thomas Zander, M.D., from the University Hospital in Cologne.More

Researchers at annual science fest hail universal vaccines
In the world of public health, no scenario involving infectious disease is too far-fetched. How often can scientists predict what virus is going to emerge and survive long enough to take hold around the world? How rapidly can governments gear up and prepare to deal with a pandemic? And should we worry about such things at all, or is the era of fast-spreading infectious diseases behind us? More

Study: The real culprit behind hardened arteries is stem cells
Science Daily
One of the top suspects behind killer vascular diseases is the victim of mistaken identity, according to researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, who used genetic tracing to help hunt down the real culprit. The guilty party is not the smooth muscle cells within blood vessel walls, which for decades was thought to combine with cholesterol and fat that can clog arteries. Instead, a previously unknown type of stem cell – a multipotent vascular stem cell – is to blame, and it should now be the focus in the search for new treatments, the scientists report in a new study in the journal Nature Communications.More

Scientists work together to achieve milestone against deadly diseases
Lab Manager
Investigators at the Center for Structural Genomics of Infectious Diseases and the Seattle Structural Genomics Center for Infectious Disease announced that they reached a significant milestone by determining 1,000 protein structures from infectious disease organisms. The knowledge gained from these structures should lead to new interventions for the deadly diseases caused by these pathogens.More

Japan researchers create human liver from stem cells
AFP via The Vancouver Sun
Japanese researchers have created a functioning human liver from stem cells, a report said, raising hopes for the manufacture of artificial organs for those in need of transplants. A team of scientists transplanted induced pluripotent stem cells into the body of a mouse, where it grew into a small, but working, human liver, the Yomiuri Shimbun said.More

Geneticist's research finds his own diabetes
The New York Times via The Bulletin
Human genome sequencing is already helping researchers find new treatments for illness. Now an unusual case study suggests that the benefits of sequencing may be enhanced in combination with detailed blood tests. The case involves Michael Snyder, a geneticist who was both the lead author and the subject of a study on genomics reported in the journal Cell. More

Doctors try to make sense of cancer's genetic jumble
Not too long ago, knowing the organ where a cancer first takes hold was generally all a doctor needed to determine what treatments to use. Not anymore. Advances in understanding cancer at the molecular level mean doctors can better select the drugs that will most help individual patients. To do so, they must identify which genetic mutations are driving the growth of a patient's tumor, and that shift is making their work much harder.More

Secret of HIV's natural born killers is revealed
AFP via Google
Scientists said they had found a key piece in the puzzle as to why a tiny minority of individuals infected with HIV have a natural ability to fight off the deadly AIDS virus. In a study they said holds promise for an HIV vaccine, researchers from four countries reported the secret lies not in the number of infection-killing cells a person has, but in how well they work.More

New research into cell-damaging effects of Huntington's disease
New research into the cell-damaging effects of Huntington's disease suggests a potentially new approach for identifying possible therapeutic targets for treating the nerve-destroying disorder. A new study led by Georgia Institute of Technology researchers suggests that the toxic effects of the huntingtin protein on cells may not be driven exclusively by the length of the protein's expansion, but also by which other proteins are present in the cell. More

Geo-medicine new frontier in medical informatics
Health IT specialists will soon want to know more about a field called geo-medicine, which combines geographic information system software with clinical databases to provide insights that might improve individual and population health. A GIS application allows users to plug data into electronic maps to find out where particular things are, measure the quantity or density of those things in certain geographical areas, or find out what's inside a particular area or what's nearby. In healthcare, researchers could use this approach to find correlations between health conditions and the geographical areas where patients live. More