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Archive - Dec 4, 2014

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Centipede Genome Sequenced; Gives Insight into Evolution; No Vision or Circadian Clock Genes Found

An international collaboration of scientists including Baylor College of Medicine has completed the first genome sequence of a myriapod, Strigamia maritima - a member of a group of venomous centipedes that care for their eggs - and uncovered new clues about their biological evolution and unique absence of vision and circadian rhythm. Over 100 researchers from 12 countries completed the project. They published their work online on November 25, 2014 in the open-access journal PLOS Biology. “This is the first myriapod and the last of the four classes of arthropods to have its genome sequenced,” said Dr. Stephen Richards, Assistant Professor in the Human Genome Sequencing Center at Baylor, where the sequencing of the project was completed, and the corresponding author on the report. “Arthropods are particularly interesting for scientific study because they diverged into more species than any other animal group as they adapted in many ways to conquer the planet. The genome of the myriapod in comparison with previously completed genomes of the other arthropod classes gives us an important view of the evolutionary changes of these exciting species.” Dr. Ariel Chipman, of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel, Dr. David Ferrier, of The University of St. Andrews in the United Kingdom, and Dr. Michael Akam of the University of Cambridge in the UK, together with Dr. Richards served as key players in the collaboration. “The arthropods have been around for over 500 million years and the relationship between the different groups and early evolution of the species is not really well understood,” said Dr. Chipman, Associate Professor at the Hebrew University.

Cost-Effective, Exosome-Based Blood Test Will Detect Specific miRNA Profile Predictive of Early-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease

A non-invasive blood test that could be used to diagnose early-onset Alzheimer’s disease (AD) with increased accuracy has been developed by University of Melbourne researchers. The research team previously determined that changes in the brain occur two decades before patients show signs of dementia. These changes can be detected through expensive brain imaging procedures. The new early-detection blood-test, which is based on profiling miRNAs carried in serum-borne exosomes, could predict these particular changes and a person’s risk of developing AD much earlier than is currently possible. The blood test has the potential to improve prediction for AD to 91 per cent accuracy. However, this needs to be further tested in a larger population across three to five years, due to AD being a progressive disease. In an initial trial group using the blood test, one in five healthy participants with no memory complaints tested positive. On further medical investigation using brain-imaging techniques, these patients showed signs of degeneration in the brain resembling AD features. Lead researcher Professor Andrew Hill (photo), from the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and the Bio21 Institute at the University of Melbourne, said the blood test would significantly advance efforts to find new treatments for the degenerative disease and could lead to better preventative measures prior to diagnoses. “This blood test would be crucial to the development of therapeutic and preventative drugs for AD. It can be used to identify patients for clinical drugs and monitoring improvement on treatment,” he said. The high accuracy of this blood test for the brain disorder comes from the ability to harvest protected bubbles (exosomes) of genetic material, called microRNA, found circulating in the bloodstream.