Practical DNA: Hugh Rienhoff’s got a story to tell

After the Nature cover article Hugh Rienhoff and the story of My Daughter’s DNA is now covered by Wired magazine. I wrote about Hugh (a fellow SciFoo Camper) as an example of any future bioDIY effort in The conditions of a mass biotech DIY movement and now the Wired piece gives us more context and details concerning how things were actually done. This is really a story that cannot be overemphasized by simply telling it again and again. 

By making inquiries with local surplus brokers, Rienhoff discovered he could buy a secondhand PCR machine for less than a MacBook. He ended up purchasing a full working model for just $750.
Obtaining additional supplies, like the PCR reagents, for his experiment was tougher. Some chemical companies didn’t want to ship to a private address, so Rienhoff pretended his house was the headquarters of the fictional Institute for Future Study.

While Rienhoff could spring for his own PCR machine, a used gene sequencer (assuming he could find one) would cost around $100,000. So he found a university lab (which he declines to identify) that would sequence the genes he had amplified, for $3.50 per 50-microliter sample. In spring 2007, Rienhoff mailed in more than 200 samples.

Rienhoff compared Beatrice’s DNA with the information on Ensembl, looking for any base-pair variants that hadn’t been previously recorded on Ensembl. Continue reading

Nature Insight: The complex trait of quantitative genetics

Nature’s newest issue has a Quantitative genetics supplement with 3 free access pieces included out which I find this review the most interesting: Reverse engineering the genotype–phenotype map with natural genetic variation by Matthew V. Rockman. There’s a lot information to digest and many patterns to understand in this background field in order to approach the future of (personal) genetics/genomics.


Vadlo, the beta biomedical search engine wants to scale up!

forwarded, nonpersonal mail from Maya Kennard (you might get that email too):

Resource link/Story suggestion for your website:Title: VADLO – Biomedical Search Engine
Description: Vadlo is a search engine for the biology/biomedical scientists, educators, clinicians and reference librarians.
Also check the Daily cartoons!

The idea is that we feed them with searches and links and they will grow big enough to give us more and more relevant searches and links. Magic concept: scalability, check the motivation behind the name choice:

Vadlo: (vud-lo) – Vadlo is a large fig tree characterized by aerial roots that eventually become accessory trunks. This allows it to grow horizontally to amazing proportions.

I find the 5 basic search categories amazing and after a short tinkering it can already throw out interesting sources:
From the about page:

Protocols category will let you search for methods, techniques, assays, procedures, reagent recipes, plasmid maps, etc. Online Tools Continue reading

Nature Personal Genomics Very Special

The newest Nature issue concentrates on personal genomics and its consequences via many types of articles some of them with free access.

I only read 1 piece so far by Erika Check Hayden, who has the exclusive freedom at Nature to always pick the best stories and write on any of them, but being a heavy 23andMe user I was instantly reminded again on the program Promethease with which I can extend the interpretation of my data with an approximately 2 hour run.

According to two commercial gene-testing services — 23andMe and deCODEme — US Army medic Timothy Richard Gall of Fort Belvoir, Virginia, has a higher-than-average risk of basal cell carcinoma, type 2 diabetes and psoriasis. But much more enlightening than these results, which cost Gall more than $1,400, was a free online program called Promethease that he used to further analyse the data. By offering more in-depth information and interpreting of more of his genetic variants, Promethease “gives a much more realistic view of the usefulness of the information”, Gall says. Start-ups and services such as Promethease are now developing ways to improve the limited value of information provided by personal genomics companies for consumers and scientists alike.


Green fluorescent protein wins the Chemistry Nobel Prize!

Green fluorescent protein (GFP) is something really familiar for many biologists, now it will be familiar for the whole world for a period via the Chemistry Nobel Prize:

From the Nobel Press Release:

The remarkable brightly glowing green fluorescent protein, GFP, was first observed in the beautiful jellyfish, Aequorea victoria in 1962. Since then, this protein has become one of the most important tools used in contemporary bioscience. With the aid of GFP, researchers have developed ways to watch processes that were previously invisible, such as the development of nerve cells in the brain or how cancer cells spread.

Osamu Shimomura first isolated GFP from Continue reading

Science X2 signals: big pharmas, stem cells, mobile MRI

The Institute for the Future‘s X2 project is all about tracing future trends in science and technology As the steward of the Biomedical Sciences and Biotechnology Group I collect signals in these fields on which some forecasts can be based later on. Here are some issues I found future sensitive enough recently:

GlaxoSmithKline collaborates with the Harvard Stem Cell Institute

Pfizer’s growing and various interests in stem cells

Regaining vision with gene therapy using adeno-associated viruses Continue reading

Sergey Brin, Gly2019Ser & a real chance against Parkinson disease/aging!

It was already known that amongst the Google top people Sergey Brin is the one who is most interested in pushing biotechnology and the biomedical sciences: in his Stanford years he was interested in biology courses according to The Google Story, he married Anne Wojcicki (who graduted from biology at Yale), Google invested $4.4 million into 23andMe the pioneering personal genomics company co-founded by Anne, then Google invested into 23andMe competitor Navigenics too.

Now Sergey Brin added another, serious and personal reason to think that he is really, personally committed to the quick progress in the biomedical sciences: in his new blog – already a bit of an Internet history – called Too he disclosed that using the 23andMe personal genetics service he figured out something worrying about his and his family’s risk of Parkinson disease (his mother and her aunt are being already diagnosed with PD):

“I learned something very important to me — I carry the G2019S mutation and when my mother checked her account, she saw she carries it too.
The exact implications of this are not entirely clear. Early studies tend to have small samples with various selection biases. Nonetheless it is clear that I have a markedly higher chance of developing Parkinson’s in my lifetime than the average person. In fact, it is somewhere between 20% to 80% depending on the study and how you measure.

The G2019S mutation is actually the rs34637584 SNP and lies in the gene LRRK2 encoding leucine-rich repeat kinase on chromosome 12. The mutation affects the first codon of the gene and is a guanine (G)-to- adenine (A) substitution resulting known as a missense and  leads to a glycine – serine (hence the name) amino acid conversion in the protein product. Here is how the SNP position looks in the 23andMe browser using the sample family, the Mendels.

23andMe’s amazingly good corporate blog The Spittoon cited a recent article about the chances: Continue reading