February 23, 2009 “Intelligence: Late Breaking Lab News”

Here’s an interesting development on the road to genetic medicine. In England last month, the press heralded the birth of what it has dubbed the “cancer-free” baby. It turns out the parents had the embryo screened for the BRCA-1 gene before implantation—and this was the first example known in Great Britain of an infant screened as an embryo for a gene that was linked to a probability of disease, as opposed to a certainty of disease. The news triggered a debate about the ethics of genetic testing.

MORE ON: Genetics

In Great Britain’s health system, the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority sets the parameters for genetic testing. Since 1990, it has approved testing for more than 60 conditions. During 2008, the Authority approved testing for the BRCA-1 gene. According to a news report on CNN, embryo screening for BRCA-1 has been conducted in the United States for several years already. At the Genesis Genetics Institute in Detroit, Michigan, Medical Director, Mark Hughes, M.D., reported that he conducts about two tests per month for either BRCA-1 or BRCA-2.


The journal Nature Structural & Molecular Biology yesterday published a story about the how researchers have engineered antibodies that can protect against many strains of influenza, including the 1918 Spanish flu and the H5N1 Bird flu. Researchers from Harvard Medical School, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Burnham Institute for Medical Research indicate that these engineered antibodies can be injected after infection and provide protection. These researchers noted, however, that it may take another five years before an effective, safe flu vaccine can be developed. Human trials are not likely to start for another two years.

ADD TO: Antibodies

For pathologists and lab managers, the creation of engineered antibodies that are effective against many strains of influenza demonstrates how new genetic and molecular knowledge is unlocking solutions to many different diseases. In fact, vaccines are a hot technology right now. Many companies are actively developing new vaccines and conducting pre-market clinical trials to validate the safety and effectiveness of their vaccines.

Dark Daily Update

dark_daily_logoHave you caught the latest e-briefings from DARK Daily? If so, then you’d know about…

…how the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) has launched a “best medical practices” database to encourage innovation in hospitals and physicians’ offices. You can get the free DARK Daily e-briefings by signing up at www.darkdaily.com.


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