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June 13, 2013 3:00 PM
A technician loads patient samples into a machine for testing at Myriad Genetics in Salt Lake City in 2002. The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that Myriad cannot patent the BRCA genes, which are tested to check a woman's risk for breast and ovarian cancer.

A technician loads patient samples into a machine for testing at Myriad Genetics in Salt Lake City in 2002. The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that Myriad cannot patent the BRCA genes, which are tested to check a woman’s risk for breast and ovarian cancer.

Douglas C. Pizac/AP

The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that human genes cannot be patented, upending 30 years of patent awards granted by the U.S. Patent Office. The court’s unanimous decision has enormous implications for the future of personalized medicine and in many ways is likely to shape the future of science and technology.

Myriad Genetics, one of the nation’s , isolated two genes with mutations that can indicate a high risk of breast and ovarian cancer. The company patented the genes, known as BRCA 1 and BRCA 2, and developed a test so that women with family or previous cancer histories could see if they had the mutations.

But the patent meant that other researchers could not use the isolated genes to develop potentially more reliable and cheaper tests. A group of doctors, patients and researchers went to court to challenge Myriad’s patent, and on Thursday they won a prtial victory.

The Supreme Court, while acknowledging the importance of Myriad’s discovery, by isolating the two BRCA genes and that the genes are a product of nature.

“The location and order of the nucleotides existed in nature before Myriad found them. Nor did Myriad create or alter the genetic structure of DNA,” Justice Clarence Thomas wrote for the court. “To be sure, it found an important and useful gene, but separating that gene from its surrounding genetic material is not an act or invention.”


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Court ruling may open up breast cancer gene tests

Associated Press

Posted on June 14, 2013 at 1:01 AM


A ruling by the Supreme Court that human genes can’t be patented is expected to increase access and drop the cost for tests for gene mutations that greatly raise the risk of developing breast or ovarian cancer.

In a bit of a mixed message, the court unanimously decided that certain types of gene tests may still be protected by patents, yet it struck down patents that a company has long held for BRCA genes. The company makes the only test for two of those breast cancer genes, BRCA1 and BRCA2.

“It appears that it will allow the market to open up so that other laboratories can offer the test,” said Rebecca Nagy, a genetics counselor at Ohio State University and president of the National Society of Genetic Counselors. And that should make the tests cheaper and available to more women, she said.

Hours after the ruling, one company — DNATraits, part of Houston-based Gene By Gene, Ltd. — said it would offer BRCA gene testing in the United States for $995 — less than a third of the current price.

A primer on the case:

Q: What did the court say?

A: Patents held by Myriad Genetics Inc. on BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes are not valid, because isolating a naturally occurring segment of DNA cannot be patented. We all have two copies of these genes; mutations in one of them can give a woman up to an 87 percent risk of developing breast cancer and up to a 54 percent risk for ovarian cancer.


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Pig stomachs gmo feed

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Pigs eatingjpg Study: GMO Feed Harmful to Pigs

by GM Watch

A groundbreaking new study [1] shows that pigs were harmed by the consumption of feed containing genetically modified (GM) crops.

GM-fed females had on average a 25% heavier uterus than non-GM-fed females, a possible indicator of disease that requires further investigation. Also, the level of severe inflammation in stomachs was markedly higher in pigs fed on the GM diet. The research results were striking and statistically significant.

Lead researcher Dr Judy Carman, adjunct associate professor at Flinders University, Adelaide, Australia,[2] said: “Our findings are noteworthy for several reasons. First, we found these results in real on-farm conditions, not in a laboratory, but with the added benefit of strict scientific controls that are not normally present on farms.

“Second, we used pigs. Pigs with these health problems end up in our food supply. We eat them.

“Third, pigs have a similar digestive system to people, so we need to investigate if people are also getting digestive problems from eating GM crops.

“Fourth, we found these adverse effects when we fed the animals a mixture of crops containing three GM genes and the GM proteins that these genes produce. Yet no food regulator anywhere in the world requires a safety assessment for the possible toxic effects of mixtures. Regulators simply assume that they can’t happen.

“Our results provide clear evidence that regulators need to safety assess GM crops containing mixtures of GM genes, regardless of whether those genes occur in the one GM plant or in a mixture of GM plants eaten in the same meal, even if regulators have already assessed GM plants containing single GM genes in the mixture.”

The new study lends scientific credibility to anecdotal evidence from farmers and veterinarians, who have for some years reported reproductive and digestive problems in pigs fed on a diet containing GM soy and corn.[3]

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Waking Times

Chris Renzo, Contributing Writer
Waking Times 

American neuroscientist, Dr. Robert Sapolsky, states that there is a widespread and dangerous notion that has taken root in our dominant scientific understanding of human behavior. The notion is that we believe human behavior is genetically determined. This deterministic view of life suggests life is rooted in biology and genetics, that we are our genes, and that genes cannot be changed. This notion is used to support the view that human nature is governed by an innate self-interest, a trait we developed through evolution. This notion suggests that mental health conditions, addictions, most of our physical disease, and or violence could be explained in respect to our genetic inheritance. This is a dangerous notion because if we suppose this to be true we do not have to worry about changing the social pre-conditions that fosters social dysfunction.

Dr. Gabor Mate, a physician and addiction specialist, states that this is the “genetic argument.” It allows us the luxury of ignoring past and present historical and social factors as they relate to our modern day social ills.  Dr. Mate, Dr. Sapolsky, and others, believe that the genetic argument is a cop out.

“Most complex conditions might have a predisposition that has a genetic component, but a predisposition is not the same as a per-determination.” – Dr. Gabor Mate

Gabor Mate suggests that no condition is solely genetically determined. He understands that there is a genetic influence, but his claim is that the environment in which we live in and take part in determines, ultimately, which genes will express themselves and which will not. In support of this claim he highlighted a breast cancer study that found that for every 100 women with breast cancer, only 7 of these women will carry the breast cancer gene. And out of all the women who do have the breast cancer gene, not all of them will get breast cancer. It would seem logical then to state that the stressful and toxic environment in which we live has a greater influence over the development of breast cancer than the genetic influence itself.

Ancient life ‘re-evolves’ in Georgia lab

by Staff Writers
Atlanta (UPI)

Early Earth

Terra Daily


disclaimer: image is for illustration purposes only

Georgia Tech researchers say they’ve resurrected a 500-million-year-old gene from bacteria and inserted it into modern-day Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria.

The resurrected bacterium has been growing for more than 1,000 generations, providing scientists a chance to observe evolution in action, the university announced Wednesday.

“This is as close as we can get to rewinding and replaying the molecular tape of life,” scientist Betul Kacar said of the effort, dubbed paleo-experimental evolution. “The ability to observe an ancient gene in a modern organism as it evolves within a modern cell allows us to see whether the evolutionary trajectory once taken will repeat itself or whether a life will adapt following a different path.”

The researchers began by determining the ancient genetic sequence of Elongation Factor-Tu (EF-Tu), an essential protein in E. coli. After achieving the difficult task of replacing the modern gene in E. coli with the ancient gene in the correct chromosomal order and position, Kacar produced eight identical bacterial strains and allowed “ancient life” to re-evolve.

The bacteria composed of both modern and ancient genes survived, but grew about two times slower than its counterpart composed of only modern genes, he said.

“The altered organism wasn’t as healthy or fit as its modern-day version, at least initially, and this created a perfect scenario that would allow the altered organism to adapt and become more fit as it accumulated mutations with each passing day,” Kacar said.

After 500 generations, the scientists sequenced the genomes of all eight lineages and found that not only did the fitness levels increase to nearly modern-day levels, some of the altered lineages actually became healthier than their modern counterpart.

The ancient gene had not yet mutated to become more similar to its modern form, they said, but rather the bacteria found a new evolutionary trajectory to adapt.

The finding could answer the question of whether an organism’s history limits its future and evolution always leads to a single, defined point, or whether evolution has multiple solutions to a given problem, Kacar said.


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