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Archive - Oct 2015

October 5th

ASHG TV Debuts at ASHG 2015 Annual Meeting in Baltimore (Oct 6-10); Details Here on How to Watch Web TV Coverage of This Major Human Genetics Conference

WebsEdge is going to be in Baltimore as the official broadcaster at the American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG) 2015 Annual Meeting (, for the first ASHG TV. To be held October 6-10 at the Baltimore Convention Center, the conference will welcome approximately 6,500 human genetics specialists. ASHG TV will broadcast a new daily show bringing together thought leaders and newsmakers from around the event. In addition, ASHG TV will be premiering a number of films from leading institutions in genetics from around the world. Preview which ones will be feature on ASHG TV at During the conference, you will be able to watch ASHG TV on screens around the Baltimore Convention Center. Excitingly, you can also view ASHG TV in the following hotels on the indicated channels: Hilton 51, Sheraton 42, Renaissance 82, Hyatt Regency 50, and Marriott Inner Harbor 19. You can also watch ASHG TV at and on YouTube at Follow WebsEdge, ASHG TV, and the meeting on Twitter at: @WebsEdge_Health| #ASHG15 | @GeneticsSociety WebsEdge/Health – our online channel for Health related organizations, including ASHG TV at

Ancient Alga Developed Crucial Set of Genes to Interact with Beneficial Land Fungi Prior to Moving from Sea to Land and Then Evolving into Earth’s First Land Plant

A team of scientists led by Dr. Pierre-Marc Delaux [John Innes Centre (UK) / University of Wisconsin-Madison (USA)] has solved a long-running mystery about the first stages of plant life on earth. The team of scientists from the John Innes Centre, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and other international collaborators, has discovered how an ancient alga was able to inhabit land, before it went on to evolve into the world's first plant and colonize the earth. The research was published online on October 5, 2015 in PNAS. The article is titled “Algal Ancestor of Land Plants Was Preadapted for Symbiosis.” Up until now, it had been assumed that the alga evolved the capability to source essential nutrients for its survival after it arrived on land by forming a close association with a beneficial fungus called arbuscular mycorrhiza (AM), which still exists today and which helps plant roots obtain nutrients and water from soil in exchange for carbon. The previous discovery of 450-million-year-old fossilized spores similar to the spores of the AM fungus suggests this fungus would have been present in the environment encountered by the first land plants. Remnants of prehistoric fungi have also been found inside the cells of the oldest plant macro-fossils, reinforcing this idea. However, scientists were not clear as to how the algal ancestor of land plants could have survived long enough to mediate a quid pro quo arrangement with a fungus. This new finding points to the alga developing this crucial capability while still living in the earth's oceans! Dr.

Fundamental Flaw Found in GC-MS Technology; “Astoundinhg Results” from Scripps Research Institute Suggest Heat from GC-MS Process Can Dramatically Change the Chemical Composition of Samples

A new study led by scientists at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) shows that a technology used in thousands of laboratories, called gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS), fundamentally alters the samples it analyzes. “We found that even relatively low temperatures used in GC-MS can have a detrimental effect on small molecule analysis,” said study senior author Dr. Gary Siuzdak, Senior Director of TSRI’s Scripps Center for Metabolomics and Professor of Chemistry, Molecular and Computational Biology. Using new capabilities within XCMS, a data analysis platform developed in the Siuzdak lab, the researchers observed small molecules transforming—and even disappearing—during an experiment meant to mimic the GC-MS process, throwing into question the nature of the data being generated by GC-MS. The study was published online on October 4, 2015 in Analytical Chemistry. The article is titled ““Thermal Degradation of Small Molecules: A Global Metabolomic Investigation.” For more than 50 years, chemists and biologists have used GC-MS to identify and measure concentrations of small molecules. When a sample is injected into a GC-MS system, it is heated and vaporized. The vapor travels through a gas chromatography column and the molecules separate, allowing the mass spectrometer to measure the individual molecules in the sample. Today, GC-MS is widely used in thousands of laboratories for tasks such as chemical analysis, disease diagnosis, environmental monitoring, and even forensic investigations. The new experiments were initiated when Dr. Siuzdak was preparing a short course for students at the American Society for Mass Spectrometry annual meeting. The question arose as to how heat from the GC-MS vaporization process could affect results, so Dr. Siuzdak and TSRI Research Associate Dr.

October 5th

Depletion of Microglia and Inhibition of Exosome Synthesis Halt Tau Propagation, a Hallmark of Alzheimer’s Disease; Scientists Believe Microglia Take Up Tau-Containing Fibrils and Spread Tau to Other Cells via Exosomes

For the first time, researchers have determined how toxic tau fibrils spread by the help of brain immune cells called microglia (image) during the early stages of Alzheimer's disease (AD). The discovery of this new pathway may lead to a therapeutic target for AD, one that has not been previously identified. In patients with AD, the gradual decline in cognitive function and loss of neurons is preceded by the harmful build-up of the protein tau in the brain. Tau accumulates as tiny fibers called fibrils in brain regions that are critical for learning and memory. But how they spread during the early stage of AD was previously unknown. "This study found that tau can be carried from one neuron to another by the brain's own immune cells in a process that may contribute to the progression of AD," explained corresponding author Tsuneya Ikezu, M.D., Ph.D., Professor of Pharmacology & Experimental Therapeutics and Neurology at Boston University School of Medicine. The findings were published online on October 5, 2015 in the journal Nature Neuroscience. The article is titled “Depletion of Microglia and Inhibition of Exosome Synthesis Halt tau Propagation.” One important function of microglia is to constantly survey the brain environment for sensing and clearing damage and infection. For this purpose, microglia actively engulf dead cells, debris, inactive synapses, or even unhealthy neurons. Then, to transfer signaling molecules and present antigen to activate an immune response, microglia release nano-scale particles called exosomes, which can be taken up by other cells. The researchers hypothesize that in an early stage of AD brain, microglia may spread the harmful protein tau by taking up tau-containing fibrils and then releasing them via the exosomes, which can be absorbed by nearby neurons.

Exosomes Mediate Acquisition of Disease Phenotypes by Normal WT Cells in Tuberous Sclerosis

Dr. Magdalena Karbowiscek, of Texas Tech University Health Science Center, and colleagues from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, and the Fox Chase Cancer Center, report that extracellular vesicles such as exosomes derived from tuberous sclerosis 1 (Tsc1)-null cells (i.e., cells lacking the Tsc1 gene) transform the phenotypes of neighboring wild-type cells in vivo in such a way that these cells become functionally similar to Tsc1-null cells. The researchers noted that loss of Tsc1 in the mouse neural tube increases the number of the wild-type neuronal progenitors, which is followed by the precocious and transient acceleration of neuronal differentiation of these cells. The group’s experiments indicated that the mechanisms regulating these changes involve the exosomal delivery of exosomal shuttle Notch1 and Rheb esRNA and component of γ-secretase complex presenilin 1 from Tsc1-null cells to wild-type cells leading to the activation of Notch and Rheb signaling in the recipient cells. The scientists expressed their belief that these exosome-mediated mechanisms may also operate in the cells of angiomyolipoma (AML), which develops as a result of mutations in TSC1/TSC2 genes in TSC patients. They reached this conclusion because they observed the reactivation of mammalian target of rapamycin and Notch pathways, driven by the delivery of Rheb and Notch1 esRNA, in AML cells depleted of Rheb that were treated with the exosomes purified from AML cells with the constitutively high Rheb levels. The scientist pointed out that functions of extracellular vesicles including exosomes in the pathogenesis of tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC) had not previously been studied. This new report was published online on October 5, 2015 in the journal Oncogene.

Experimental Gene-Based Biologic (VB-111) Almost Doubles Survival Time for Those with Recurrent Glioblastoma (8 Months to 15 Months) in Phase 2 Study

Intravenous administration of a novel, gene-based, anti-angiogenic biologic (VB-111) essentially doubled the overall survival of patients with recurrent glioblastoma compared to the current standard of care, a researcher, at the Cancer Therapy & Research Center (CTRC) at The University of Texas Health Science Center (UTHSC) at San Antonio said in an October 1, 2015 press release from the UTHSC at San Antonio. Glioblastoma is an aggressive brain cancer that kills two-thirds of patients within five years. A patient's outlook with recurrence of the disease is considered to be weeks or months. CTRC Medical Oncologist Andrew J. Brenner, M.D., Ph.D., Associate Professor in Medicine, Neurology, and Neurosurgery at the UT Health Science Center School of Medicine, presented final results of a Phase 2 clinical research study that evaluated VB-111, in continuous and intermittent doses and in comparison to the treatment standard, the chemotherapy Avastin™. Patients receiving VB-111 survived 15 months on average, compared to 8 months on average for patients receiving Avastin alone. The CTRC and three other centers enrolled 62 patients with recurrent glioblastoma for the studies. "These are the patients with the most serious cases, whose glioblastoma has recurred after surgery and who, as a result, have a very short life expectancy," Dr. Brenner said. Dr. Brenner, principal investigator for the studies, presented the results this week at the European Cancer Congress 2015 meeting in Vienna, Austria (September 25-29). "In addition to the benefit in overall survival, VB-111 was safe and well-tolerated in the patients, and proved to be effective both as a single therapy for recurrent glioblastoma, and in combination with Avastin," he said.

2015 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine Awarded for Work to Treat Parasitic Diseaeses—Including River Blindness, Elephantiasis, and Malaria—Discoveries of Avermectin and Artemisinin Have Changed the World

The Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden has today (Monday, October 5) awarded the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, with one half going jointly to William C. Campbell, Ph.D., and Satoshi Ōmura, Ph.D., for their discoveries concerning a novel therapy against infections caused by roundworm parasites, and the other half going to Youyou Tu, for her discoveries concerning a novel therapy against malaria diseases caused by parasites that have plagued humankind for millennia and constitute a major global health problem. In particular, parasitic diseases affect the world’s poorest populations and represent a huge barrier to improving human health and wellbeing. This year’s Nobel Laureates have developed therapies that have revolutionized the treatment of some of the most devastating parasitic diseases. Dr. Campbell and Dr. Ōmura discovered a new drug, avermectin, the derivatives of which have radically lowered the incidence of river blindness and lymphatic filariasis (often called elephantiasis), as well as showing efficacy against an expanding number of other parasitic diseases. Dr. Tu discovered artemisinin, a drug that has significantly reduced the mortality rates for patients suffering from malaria. These two discoveries have provided humankind with powerful new means to combat these debilitating diseases that affect hundreds of millions of people annually. The consequences in terms of improved human health and reduced suffering are immeasurable. Parasites cause devastating diseases We live in a biologically complex world, which is populated not only by humans and other large animals, but also by a plethora of other organisms, some of which are harmful or deadly to us.

October 4th

Israel-Based Company Develops Scalable, Cost-Effective, Sustainable Solution for Production of Microalgae-Biomass

Novel and scalable technology and a production process combining algal biomass cultivation, harvesting, and concentration, as well as extraction and fractionation of fatty acids from the biomass, result in the ability to offer high-quality feedstock for various industries at a highly competitive price. UniVerve Ltd. (UniVerve), a company headquartered in Tel Aviv, Israel, has begun scaling-up its novel technological process, which is expected to change the feedstock market in various industries, such as food, feed, and biofuel, which are forced to look for alternative feedstock due to the increasing price of current raw materials. A description of UniVerve’s technology is offered in an article published in the June & September 2015 of the journal Technology. The article is titled “A Novel Technology to Produce Microalgae Biomass As Feedstock for Biofuel, Food, Feed, and More.” While microalgae-oil was perceived as the preferred feedstock to supply the inelastic global demand for biofuel, industry and academia attempts to create viable microalgae-oil production processes have not reached the desired goal yet. In the meantime, UniVerve has developed an innovative technological process that provides a scalable, cost effective, and sustainable solution for the production of microalgae-biomass. The oil, which can be extracted with off-the-shelf wet extraction technologies and used as an excellent feedstock for all kinds of biofuel, is expected to be produced at up to 50 dollars per barrel (equal to the current market price of crude fossil oil). As the biomass contains also omega-3 fatty acids, proteins, and other valuable biomaterials that can be commercialized in the food and feed markets, a microalgae farm can serve the biofuel, food, and feed industries, which face an increasing lack of quality feedstock at an affordable price.

Restoring Wild Plant Odors & Nectars to Crop Plants to Reduce Pest Infestations

Rose gardeners have a lot to say about aphids. Some may advise insecticides as a way to manage an infestation, but others will swear by live ladybugs (natural predators of aphids). The latter is more environmental-friendly, and once the ladybugs run out of food to eat, they move on. While this strategy may work in someone's backyard, it's not an option on a large farm. In an October 4, 2015 Trends in Plant Science open-access opinion paper, agricultural researchers in Sweden and Mexico argue that one way around the scalability problem is to bring back the odors and nectars found in wild plants that attract pest-eating predators. This could be done either through breeding programs or by using artificial devices. The article is titled “Optimizing Crops for Biocontrol of Pests and Disease.” "Wild plants commonly emit natural odors when they are damaged that attract natural enemies of pest insects--even as humans we smell it when our neighbour is mowing the lawn - odors can carry very precise information," says co-author Dr. Martin Heil of CINVESTAV-Irapuato in Mexico. "Agriculture has bred such defenses out of crops, and because these odors have no negative effects on human consumers, we want to replace what the plant would already be doing." It's also not unusual for wild plants to produce nectar on their leaves to feed carnivores. While leaf-eating caterpillars or beetles are munching away on plant matter, predatory ants or wasps have a sugary substance to drink and a well-stocked spot to lay their eggs. Dr. Heil and others theorize that the reason these rather helpful traits no longer exist in crops is because plant breeders and decision makers couldn't tell the difference between helpful insects and pests. Only in the past 30 years has it been recognized that plants use odors to communicate to one another and to other species.

Johan Skog, CSO of Exosome Diagnostics, Will Discuss Exosome RNA for Biomarker Development and Clinical Applications of Exosome Biomarkers in Free Webinar on Tuesday, October 6, 11 AM EDT

A free, live-broadcast webinar on exosome RNA biomarkers will be presented on Tuesday, October 6, 2015, beginning at 11 am EDT. In a 90-minute presentation, industry expert Dr. Johan Skog, Chief Scientific Officer and Founding Scientist at Exosome Diagnostics, will discuss the exosome composition, different sources of RNA in biofluids, and approaches to isolate them. Following this overview, he will speak about clinical applications of exosome biomarkers. To learn more about this free event, and to register for it, please visit: Discovery and validation of biomarkers has traditionally required the use of tissue for analysis of RNA, DNA or protein. This has been especially true for RNA-based biomarkers, because RNase degradation of free RNA makes translation of tissue-based biomarkers into blood based tests highly problematic. However, the discovery that exosomes found in biofluids contain stable, disease-specific RNA, represents a potential paradigm shift for biomarker discovery and development. Exosome RNA can be used to monitor tumor-derived mutations in biofluids, but can also be used to monitor RNA levels reflective of different signaling pathways (including mRNA, miRNA, lncRNA and other types of RNA). In addition, exosome RNA can be used to monitor cell activities resulting in fusions and RNA splice variants that cannot be measured on circulating free tumor DNA. Dr. Johan Skog is a renowned, well-published thought leader in exosome science, having pioneered breakthrough discoveries about exosomes and other microvesicles and their vital role as cell messengers and disease proliferators. While at Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School, Dr.