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Archive - Mar 2012


March 11th

Gorilla Genome Sequenced

Researchers have completed the genome sequence for the gorilla – the last genus of the living great apes to have its genome decoded. The work was published online on March 7, 2012 in Nature. While confirming that our closest relative is the chimpanzee, the research team showed that much of the human genome more closely resembles the gorilla genome than it does the chimpanzee genome. This is the first time scientists have been able to compare the genomes of all four living great apes: humans, chimpanzees, gorillas, and orang-utans. This study provides a unique perspective on our own origins and is an important resource for research into human evolution and biology, as well as for gorilla biology and conservation. "The gorilla genome is important because it sheds light on the time when our ancestors diverged from our closest evolutionary cousins. It also lets us explore the similarities and differences between our genes and those of gorilla, the largest living primate," says Dr. Aylwyn Scally, first author from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute. "Using DNA from Kamilah, a female western lowland gorilla, we assembled a gorilla genome sequence and compared it with the genomes of the other great apes. We also sampled DNA sequences from other gorillas in order to explore genetic differences between gorilla species." The team searched more than 11,000 genes in human, chimpanzee, and gorilla for genetic changes important in evolution. Humans and chimpanzees are genetically closest to each other over most of the genome, but the team found many places where this is not the case. 15% of the human genome is closer to the gorilla genome than it is to chimpanzee, and 15% of the chimpanzee genome is closer to the gorilla than to human.

March 7th

Possible New Treatment for Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL)

A team of researchers at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine has developed the first "theranostic" agent for the treatment of acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). ALL is the most common type of childhood cancer, with approximately 5,000 new cases diagnosed each year in the United States. The findings provide insight into pediatric oncology that specifically focuses on the development of so-called "theranostic" agents-- a treatment platform that combines a selective diagnostic test with targeted therapy based on the test results. Discovery of this new class of drugs is the first step towards new diagnostic markers and therapeutic approaches in treatments with anti-cancer agents of numerous other cancers in addition to ALL. "This discovery takes a chemical biology approach to target ALL. Our nucleosides represent a new class of theranostic agents that provide an original approach to achieving personalized treatments against pediatric leukemia," says Dr. Anthony J. Berdis, assistant professor of pharmacology at Case Western Reserve School of Medicine. "We've developed a non-natural nucleoside that specifically targets this form of childhood leukemia. The combination of therapeutic and diagnostic activities will provide more selective and more expedient ways to treat patients by optimizing the dosages needed to kill the cancer cells without affecting normal cells. This selectivity should minimize the development of adverse side effects typically associated with conventional anti-cancer nucleosides," says Dr. Berdis. Using an enzyme implicated in the disease, terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase (TdT) which serves as a biomarker and is overexpressed in 90 percent of ALL patients, Dr. Berdis and his team designed a new selective anti-cancer agent against ALL.