SCOTUS Myriad Genetics decision a significant shift from status quo

In the Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics decision, the Supreme Court unanimously held that naturally occurring DNA sequences are “products of nature” and therefore cannot be patented. “The Court’s holding represents a significant shift form the status quo,” says Kevin Emerson Collins, JD, patent law expert and professor of law at Washington University in St. Louis. “It reverses both the lower court and twenty years of precedent at the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

Are human genes patentable?

On April 15, the Supreme Court will hear oral argument in Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics, a case that could answer the question, “Under what conditions, if any, are isolated human genes patentable?” Kevin Emerson Collins, JD, patent law expert and professor of law at Washington University in St. Louis, believes that layered uncertainties make this case an unusually difficult case in which to predict the outcome.

Soil bacteria and pathogens share antibiotic resistance genes

Disease-causing bacteria’s efforts to resist antibiotics may get help from their distant bacterial relatives that live in the soil, new research by Kevin Forsberg, a graduate student at Washington University School of Medicine suggests. The researchers found identical genes for antibiotic resistance in soil bacteria and in pathogens from clinics around the world.

Researchers identify DNA region linked to depression

Researchers at Washington University and King’s College London have independently identified DNA on chromosome 3 that appears to be related to depression. The new studies identify a DNA region containing up to 90 genes. Both are published May 16 in the American Journal of Psychiatry

Researchers find genetic link to sleepwalking

People who sleepwalk can now blame the disorder on their family. A study involving a four-generation family of sleepwalkers has suggested a genetic link to the common disorder, according to Christina A, Gurnett, MD, PhD. 

The gene-environment enigma

A new study shows that the environment interacts with DNA in ways that are difficult to predict, even in simple organisms like single-celled yeast, which complicates the prospects for personalized medicine. 

Simple blood test may diagnose deadly Niemann-Pick type C disease

A fatal genetic disorder that frequently takes years to diagnose may soon be detectable with a simple blood test, researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and the National Institutes of Health report this week in Science Translational Medicine.

Researchers solve piece of large-scale gene silencing mystery

PikaardA team led by Craig Pikaard, Ph.D., WUSTL professor of biology in Arts & Sciences, has made a breakthrough in understanding the phenomenon of nucleolar dominance, the silencing of an entire parental set of ribosomal RNA genes in a hybrid plant or animal. Since the machinery involved in nucleolar dominance is some of the same machinery that can go haywire in diseases such as cancer, Pikaard and his collaborators’ research may have important implications for applied medical research. Click here for a podcast from Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News: Interview with Craig Pikaard.

New gene silencing pathway found in plants

Biologists at Washington University in St. Louis have made major headway in explaining a mechanism by which plant cells silence potentially harmful genes. A team led by Craig Pikaard, Ph.D., WUSTL professor of biology in Arts & Sciences, has published a paper this month in Cell, that explains how RNA polymerases work together to use the non-coding region of DNA to prevent destructive, virus-derived genes from being activated.
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