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Science Papers Propose Group to Discuss Genome-Editing Tools, Markers of Diabetes Drug Response, More

An international group of experts propose in this week's Science a global citizens' assembly composed of at least 100 people from around the world that is tasked with weighing expert commentary on genome-editing technologies and providing feedback on their impact and potential regulation. In a policy forum piece, the authors note that governance of genome-editing technologies has not kept pace with technological advances in the field, "leaving a complex, uneven, and incomplete web of national and international regulation." A global citizens' assembly would represent the beginning of an "effective global public deliberation … informing wider publics as much as the process of decision-making," they write.

By analyzing blood-based epigenetic markers from drug-naïve type 2 diabetics, a team led by investigators from Lund University was able to identify patients who respond well to the type 2 diabetes (T2D) drug metformin. Despite metformin's benefits in many people with type 2 diabetes, approximately 30 percent of patients either do not respond to the drug or experience intolerable side effects, yet there is no way to identify such individuals. To address this gap, scientists analyzed genome-wide DNA methylation in the blood of 345 newly diagnosed T2D patients from multiple cohorts who had not received pharmacologic treatment. As reported in Science Translational Medicine, they find that those with DNA methylation at specific loci were up to 2.5 times more likely to not respond to metformin and up to 3 times more likely to not tolerate the drug, suggesting that these epigenetic markers may help guide treatment. GenomeWeb has more on this, here.

A study of ancient horse DNA published in Science Advances this week indicates that domestic horses likely did not originate in Anatolia as some believe. While Anatolia's long history of horse use has made it a candidate for the origins of domestic horses, a detailed examination of this possibility had not yet been performed. As such, a group led by researchers from the University of Paris studied 111 horse remains from archeological sites in central Anatolia and the Caucasus dating between 9000 BC and 500 BC, as well as historic samples from later periods, combining morphological classification with analyses of mitochondrial, Y chromosome DNA, and autosomal DNA markers related to coat color. They find a pattern of genetic change that does not reflect a gradual process involving the local population but rather a sudden appearance around 2000 BCE of nonlocal lineages that are still present in domestic horses. "Our results strongly suggest that Anatolia was not a primary source for domestic horse lineages, but, as observed in other regions, local matrilines were incorporated into herds of imported domestic horses, which were also hybridized with local donkeys to create mules," the authors write. GenomeWeb also has more on this study, here.

The Scan

J&J Booster Support

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To Keep the Cases Moving

The president of the UK Royal College of Pathologists tells the Financial Times that more investment is needed to tackle a backlog of cases.

NAS Expels Archaeologist

Science reports Luis Jaime Castillo Butters' expulsion is the first of an international member from the US National Academy of Sciences.

PLOS Papers on Angelman Syndrome-Like Cases, Salmonella Paratyphi A, SARS-CoV-2 in Brazil

In PLOS this week: exome sequencing analysis of Angelman syndrome-like cases, genetic epidemiology of Salmonella Paratyphi A, and more.