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Archive - Mar 17, 2010


Hood Keynote Highlights Conference on Future of Genomic Medicine

In the keynote address to 300 attendees at the Future of Genomic Medicine III conference in La Jolla, California (March 5-6, 2010), Dr. Leroy Hood, President of the Institute for Systems Biology, sketched his optimistic vision of the future of personalized DNA-based medicine, and predicted that within five years it will be possible to sequence an entire human genome in under an hour for a cost of $500 or less. He emphasized the importance of taking a systems approach to biological investigations and described how such an approach had been applied to the analysis of prion disease in a mouse model. Dr. Hood also outlined the first-ever full genome sequencing of a complete family of two children and both parents, in which both children had inherited the same two rare recessive genetic diseases (Miller’s syndrome and primary ciliary dyskinesia), but both parents were unaffected. The analysis of the four complete sequences revealed the two disease genes that were inherited by both affected children. Dr. Hood noted that the ability to compare all four related sequences allowed for a significant increase in sequencing accuracy. Dr. Hood also envisioned a future of individual patients surrounded by clouds of data points that might prove key to their individual diagnoses and therapies, and he emphasized that biology is an informational science. He noted that the management and interpretation of data will be crucial going forward. He said that a critical goal for medical genetic tests is that they be both predictive and actionable. Dr. Hood was just one of many luminaries who took to the podium at this year’s conference, hosted by the Scripps Translational Science Institute and the J. Craig Venter Institute, and sponsored by a number of major biotech and pharmaceutical companies.

Leptin May Have Advantages Over Insulin in Type 1 Diabetes Treatment

In a mouse model, scientists at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, and collaborators, have shown that administration of the hormone leptin may have multiple short- and long-term advantages over insulin monotherapy for type 1 diabetes. The scientist showed that, although the two hormones are similar in certain of their anti-diabetic effects, they differ dramatically with respect to their effects on lipid metabolism: leptin suppresses lipogenesis, whereas insulin monotherapy enhances lipogenesis and factors involved in cholesterologenesis. The researchers said that their findings indicate that recombinant leptin, either alone or combined with low-dose insulin therapy, provides equivalent or superior glycemic stability without the increase in body fat and up-regulation of cholesterologenic and lipogenic transcription factors and enzymes observed with insulin monotherapy. According to the researchers, their results raise the possibility of a role for leptin supplementation in the treatment of human type 1 diabetes. This work was published as the cover story of the March 16, 2010 issue of PNAS. [PNAS article]