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Archive - Aug 30, 2018

SOX10 Appears to Be Master Switch That Activates Growth and Invasiveness of Triple-Negative Breast Cancer

A team at the Salk Institute has identified a master switch that appears to control the dynamic behavior of tumor cells that makes some aggressive cancers so difficult to treat. The gene Sox10 directly controls the growth and invasion of a significant fraction of hard-to-treat triple-negative breast cancers. Recently, the Salk lab led by Professor Geoffrey Wahl discovered that aggressive breast cancers return to a flexible, earlier state found in fetal breast tissue. This cellular reprogramming may be the key to cancer's ability to form new cell types, evolve drug resistance, and metastasize to other locations in the body. The new work documenting Sox10's role in this process, which was reported online in Cancer Cell on August 30, 2018, represents a major milestone in researchers' understanding of cancer and could open new avenues for diagnosing and treating aggressive breast cancer, as well as other types of intractable cancers. The article is titled “Epigenetic and Transcriptomic Profiling of Mammary Gland Development and Tumor Models Disclose Regulators of Cell State Plasticity.” "Two things that make triple-negative breast cancers so hard to treat are their heterogeneity--they have many different cell types within a single tumor--and their ability to move around and colonize new areas, the process of metastasis," says Dr. Wahl, holder of the Daniel and Martina Lewis Chair and senior author of the work.

CRISPR Halts Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy Progression in Dogs; Single-Cut Gene Editing Technique Restores Dystrophin Expression by Up to 92% of Normal

For the first time, scientists have used CRISPR gene editing to halt the progression of Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) in a large mammal (dogs), according to a study by University of Texas (UT) Southwestern that provides a strong indication that a lifesaving treatment may be in the pipeline. The research, published online on August 30, 2018 in Science, documents unprecedented improvement in the muscle fibers of dogs with DMD - the most common fatal genetic disease in children, caused by a mutation that inhibits the production of dystrophin, a protein critical for muscle function. The article is titled “Gene Editing Restores Dystrophin Expression in a Canine Model Of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy.” Researchers used a single-cut gene-editing technique to restore dystrophin in muscle and heart tissue by up to 92 percent of normal levels. Scientists have estimated a 15 percent threshold is needed to significantly help patients. "Children with DMD often die either because their heart loses the strength to pump, or their diaphragm becomes too weak to breathe," said Dr. Eric Olson, Director of UT Southwestern's Hamon Center for Regenerative Science and Medicine. "This encouraging level of dystrophin expression would hopefully prevent that from happening." DMD, which affects one in 5,000 boys, leads to muscle and heart failure, and premature death by the early 30s. Patients are forced into wheelchairs as their muscles degenerate and eventually onto respirators as their diaphragms weaken. No effective treatment exists, though scientists have known for decades that a defect in the dystrophin gene causes the condition. The Science study establishes the proof-of-concept for single-cut gene editing in dystrophic muscle and represents a major step toward a clinical trial. Already Dr.

Scientists Decode Opium Poppy Genome; Combining Variety of High-Quality Sequencing Technologies Enables Researchers to Overcome Obstacle of 71% Repetitive Elements in This Important Genome

Scientists have determined the DNA sequence of the opium poppy genome, uncovering key steps in how the plant evolved to produce the pharmaceutical compounds used to make vital medicines. The discovery may pave the way for scientists to improve yields and the disease resistance of the medicinal plant, securing a reliable and cheap supply of the most effective drugs for pain relief and palliative care. The breakthrough, by researchers at the University of York in partnership with the Wellcome Sanger Institute, UK, and international colleagues, reveals the origins of the genetic pathway leading to the production of the cough suppressant noscapine and the painkiller drugs morphine and codeine. The seminal work was reported online on August 30, 2018 in Science. The article is titled “The Opium Poppy Genome and Morphinan Production.” Co-corresponding author, Professor Ian Graham, from the Centre for Novel Agricultural Products, Department of Biology at the University of York, said: “Biochemists have been curious for decades about how plants have evolved to become one of the richest sources of chemical diversity on earth. Using high-quality genome assembly, our study has deciphered how this has happened in opium poppy. At the same time this research will provide the foundation for the development of molecular plant breeding tools that can be used to ensure there is a reliable and cheap supply of the most effective painkillers available for pain relief and palliative care for societies in not just developed, but also developing world countries.” Synthetic biology-based approaches to manufacturing compounds such as noscapine, codeine, and morphine are now being developed whereby genes from the plant are engineered into microbial systems such as yeast to enable production in industrial fermenters.

Ig Nobels Coming to Harvard, MIT, & Japan

On Thursday evening, September 13, the 2018, Ig Nobel Prize winners will be announced — and showered with applause and paper airplanes — at Harvard University. The winners will be honored for achievements that first make people LAUGH, and then make them THINK. This will be the 28th First Annual Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony. Organized by the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research (AIR), in cooperation with several Harvard student groups, it celebrates the unusual, honors the imaginative, and spurs interest in science. Ten new Ig Nobel Prizes will be awarded. The identity of the winners is kept secret until they receive their prize on stage. Genuine Nobel laureates will physically hand the prizes to the winners. These laureates plan to take part in the ceremony: Eric Maskin (Economics, 2007), Wolfgang Ketterle (Physics, 2001), Oliver Hart (Economics, 2016), Michael Rosbash (Physiology or Medicine, 2017), Roy Glauber (Physics, 2005), Rich Roberts (Physiology or Medicine, 1993), and Marty Chalfie (Chemistry, 2008). The theme of this year's ceremony (though not necessarily of the individual prizes) is: The Heart. The ceremony will also include: the premiere of "The Broken Heart Opera,” performed by opera singers and Harvard Medical School cardiologists (The Opera Plot: Children curious to know 'How can you mend a broken heart?' decide that the best way is to first build a heart, then break it, then mend it. They try to do exactly that.); and the 24/7 Lectures, in which several of the world's top thinkers each explains her or his subject twice — first in 24 seconds, and then, clearly, in 7 words.