GEN is pleased to introduce a new column that will appear throughout the editorial year.It will highlight emerging university or academic technologies that have future applications in the commercial biotech and pharma arenas. GEN first discussed each of these novel methodologies in one of our weekly podcasts and we invite you to go to www.genengnews.com/genCasts.aspx to learn more about the discovery and potential of each of these technologies.
DELIVERING CELLS INTRANASALLY TO THE BRAIN
William Frey, Ph.D., codirector, Alzheimer’s Research Center, Regions Hospital, St. Paul, MN, and professor, oral biology and pharmaceutics, University of Minnesota. GEN Podcast, July 16, 2009.
For decades the blood-brain barrier has served as the major obstacle to the use of many therapeutic agents for central nervous system disorders. However, a noninvasive, intranasal method of bypassing the blood-brain barrier to deliver drugs to the brain and spinal cord was revealed by Dr. Frey in 1992.
Now Dr. Frey and collaborators in Germany report that stem cells can be noninvasively delivered to the brain using the intranasal method. They accomplished this goal in an animal model and noted that they bypassed the blood-brain barrier.
ALUMINUM OXIDE NANOPORE FOR DNA ANALYSIS
Bala Murali Venkatesan, fourth-year graduate student, department of electrical and computer engineering, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. GEN Podcast, June 25, 2009.
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign researchers are developing a new solid-state nanopore sensor that they believe can move the reality of fast and affordable genome sequencing a step closer. The sensor, made by drilling a tiny hole through a thin film of aluminum oxide, could ultimately prove capable of performing DNA analysis with a single molecule. This would offer tremendous possibilities for personalized medicine and advanced diagnostics, according to the scientists.
THE EMERGING FIELD OF NUTRIGENOMICS
Eugene Kolker, Ph.D., chief data officer, Seattle Children’s Hospital, head, bioinformatics and high-throughput analysis laboratory, Seattle Children’s Research Institute and Vural Ozdemir, M.D., Ph.D., research assistant professor in bioethics, department of social and preventive medicine, faculty of medicine, University of Montreal. GEN Podcast, April 2, 2009.
Nutrigenomics is a rapidly growing discipline that focuses on identifying the genetic factors that influence the body’s response to diet and studies how the bioactive constituents of food affect gene expression. A key goal is the development of personalized diets for disease prevention.
Nutrigenomics’ bidirectional approach to investigating how the genetic traits of an individual or population interact with diet offers many possibilities for targeted clinical interventions and preventive medicine. These may include either modifying diet or the biochemical response to food exposure to prevent disease in individuals shown to be susceptible to the consequences of unfavorable dietary/genomic interactions.
MENDELIAN HOLES OFFER A NEW WAY OF LOOKING AT PEDIATRIC INFECTIOUS DISEASES
Jean-Laurent Casanova, M.D., Ph.D., professor of medicine, head of the laboratory of human genetics of infectious diseases, The Rockefeller University. GEN Podcast, January 22, 2009.
Dr. Casanova studies the genetics of human predisposition to pediatric infectious diseases, particularly mycobacterial, invasive pneumococcal, and herpes simplex encephalitis. He is interested in identifying Mendelian “holes” in the immune defense of otherwise healthy children who are susceptible to specific infectious diseases, work that has resulted in a paradigm shift in human clinical medicine and fundamental immunology.
Dr. Casanova’s laboratory aims to understand what it is that makes some children develop a severe clinical illness in the course of infection while others exposed to the same microbe remain unharmed.
In the past decade, the Casanova and Abel laboratory in Paris revealed that single genetic lesions in children confer severe and selective vulnerability to certain illnesses, whereas corresponding infections in adults result more from polygenetic inheritance. This work not only blurs the distinction between patient-based Mendelian genetics and population-based complex genetics but has also provided experimental support for a unified theory of human infectious diseases.