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Singapore medtech company develops portable genetic test for COVID-19

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Singapore-incorporated medtech company Cell ID Pte. Ltd. has developed a palm-sized portable genetic test kit that uses an app on a laptop to detect, anywhere, at any time, if a person has COVID-19. Dubbed the Quiz PCR Biochip, the test uses biotechnology to perform two tests at a time outside of the laboratory.Positive results are confirmed in as fast as five minutes and negative results are returned within an hour. A QR code on the biochip also offers traceability which allows healthcare providers to quickly identify, and electronically deliver the test results to the person being tested.
HOW IT WORKS

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To operate the test, less than two hours of training is required. The test requires a tiny amount (10µl) of a nasal swab or saliva specimen to be applied to the biochip, which when plugged into a laptop, runs a real-time reverse transcription loop-mediated isothermal amplification (RT-LAMP) assay for the qualitative detection of SARS-CoV-2 RNA. Two genetic tests are able to run concurrently using the same or different protocol – polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests or RT-LAMP assay.
The efficacy of the biochips has been tested in Singapore in collaboration with local healthcare agencies (Sengkang General Hospital & Woodlands Health Campus) at two quarantine facilities (EXPO and a foreign workers dormitory) between July and October 2020.
WHY IT MATTERS
Conventional PCR tests can take up to 12-24 hours for COVID-19 positive results to appear, plus it is a laboratory …

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Small and large birth weight linked to genetics of mother and baby—except in tiniest babies

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Genetics of mother and baby contribute to most cases where babies are born very large or very small, according to new research.
A large scale study, led by the University of Exeter and Cardiff University, has found the strongest evidence to date that genetics play a major role in most cases when babies born at full term are in the top or bottom 10 percent of the weight spectrum.
However, in the three percent of babies with the smallest birth weights, genetics seemed to play a less important role. This indicated that other factors may be contributing to the babies’ small size. The research looked at 190 common genetic variations that are known to affect birth weight, yet it is possible that rare genetic changes in the baby reduce growth in the smallest three percent. Other important factors could include the health of the mother or fetus or of the placenta, which transfers nutrients and oxygen to the baby.
The study was a collaboration also involving the University of Bristol’s Children of the 90s, Imperial College London, and the University of Oulu in Finland. The research was supported by Wellcome Trust and the H2020 program of the European Commission.
The weight of babies at birth is important, as those born at the extreme ends are at higher risk of complications. Smaller babies are more likely to be admitted to neonatal units and at higher risk of death, while larger babies are at higher risk of complications during birth.

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Reprogramming rejuvenates nerve cells and restores vision in mice

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For years now, biologists have been practicing a kind of time travel. You can take a speck of human skin, and with the right genetic tweaking, turn back its inner clock until it becomes its embryonic self, stripped of its identity and ready to become just about any human body part at all. Since the method was published in 2006, transforming adult cells into stem cells has allowed all sorts of advances. Researchers can grow organs in dishes. They can replicate what happens in the womb without the regulatory headache of acquiring fetal tissue. It became an everyday tool at lab benches around the world and won a Nobel Prize.
But for David Sinclair’s purposes, that wasn’t good enough. His interest was in reversing the slings and arrows of old age, using that genetic time machine to create something that would actually be therapeutic. When cells were rewound to an embryo-like state, they did what embryonic cells do: Divide like crazy. Outside the intricate control of the prenatal environment, that gave rise to cancer. The mice used in such experiments died within days. “We wanted to take the age of a tissue backward, but find a way to stop it from going too far back,” said Sinclair, a professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School.

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Two new genetic traits coming in December

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Dairy producers will soon have two new traits of significant economic value to consider in their breeding programs.Feed Saved in Holsteins and Heifer Livability in both Holsteins and Jerseys will be launched by the Council on Dairy Cattle Breeding (CDCB). Feed Saved and Heifer Livability will be available as individual traits with the triannual genetic evaluations on December 1, and they are expected to be incorporated into the Net Merit genetic index when it is updated in 2021.Improving heifer survival ratesGenetic progress has been ongoing to reduce cow deaths in milking herds through the Cow Livability and Productive Life traits. Now, Heifer Livability will support enhanced survival rates in young stock. An analysis of heifer records from herds on official Dairy Herd Information (DHI) testing showed 96% of heifers survive from two days to 18 months of age, the period for which Heifer Livability (HLIV) is based. The HLIV evaluation is expressed in percentage points above or below the breed average, with larger positive values being more favorable.Heifer Livability reveals a heifer’s overall resistance to causes that lead to death, most commonly digestive and respiratory diseases (USDA APHIS, 2018). Improving heifer survival rates has clear benefit for producers, with the average cost of heifer loss estimated at $500 (Neupane et al, 2020).Hay burners versus hay convertersCows vary in the ability to convert feed to milk, and the Feed Saved trait will document those differences. Feed Saved will allow producers to breed for more feed-efficient cows, improve dairy sustainability, and save on feed …

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Accumulated genetic variations: What they are and why they matter to a complete health picture 

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Genes are by no means a crystal ball, but they can be used to forecast susceptibility to a variety of conditions, from cancers and heart disease to chronic inflammatory conditions. As such, they can help healthcare professionals and patients make better care decisions.
Generally speaking, when people today think about genetic predispositions, they think about their parents and family trees. However, those inherited genetic variations bequeathed by our parents and grandparents are only a portion of a complete genetic picture – and often not the most revealing one. The genetic variations most commonly linked to disease are actually?not?the ones from your parents; rather, they are acquired as one ages.
Mom and Dad Can’t Take All the Heat for All Health ChallengesUnlike inherited genetic predispositions, accumulated genetic changes (otherwise known as “somatic”) are the result of environmental influences, such as smoking, chemicals or ultra-violet radiation. They can also stem from common errors cells make as they duplicate themselves over time. The expansion of these detrimental variations cause damage to DNA within blood cells, a phenomenon known as clonal hematopoiesis (CH), which increases susceptibility to many diseases, including many types of cancer.
Germline variations in genes still indicate potential vulnerabilities, with one in five healthy adults estimated to carry an inherited marker. However, these genetic abnormalities represent a static metric. Once individuals are tested for inherited variations, they will never need to do so again. What’s more, many of the predispositions that surfaced through this testing can be addressed …

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Opinion: CT student explores connection between genetics, neuroscience and political identity

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Opinion: CT student explores connection between genetics, neuroscience and political identity

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Political polarization in America is not a new concept. Political parties exist for a reason, because the parties have, at their core, very different moral, ideological, and economic guidelines for understanding the world. If everyone agreed on how the country should be run, the party system would not exist.

It is no secret that in recent years political division has heightened. A Pew Research Center study conducted one month before the 2020 election found that 89 percent of Republican President Donald Trump’s supporters said they would be very concerned about the country’s leadership and future if Democrat Joe Biden were elected.

Conversely, 90 percent of Biden supporters said they would be very concerned about the country’s leadership and future if Trump were elected. These numbers underscore what makes 2020 politics appear so different from political division of the past: we are eliminating space for common ground and eroding our ability to come together under a national identity outside of a two-party battleground. Why? One reason seldom talked about in mainstream political debate is the extent to which our political preferences are, in part, shaped by our neurology and genetics.

Our understanding of neuroscience has greatly expanded in recent years. Studies indicate there …

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Cranky camels make difficult dairy cows – part two… but technology and genetics are making some headway

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Most camels and their cousins, alpacas and llamas, have a reputation for being somewhat irritable and belligerent; that’s backed up with occasional bouts of spitting, biting and cantankerous behaviour. They have been domesticated for a few thousand years, but they still seem to have a lofty sense of dignity despite humans trying to break their spirit. The noble camel has endured being a beast of burden and even a racing animal. But becoming a dairy animal is a work in progress as patient folks who handle them have found out since they were first tamed. Humans have milked or tried to milk camels for thousands of years; the milk is particularly nutritious and a protein source in many middle east and African societies to this day. The fact that massive camel dairy operations have sprung up would indicate that camel milk is still popular within the middle east’s urbanized community and has a growing interest in other parts of the world. Camel dairy operations have started up in the USA and Australia to supply new markets, but they are modest in size. The biggest hurdle is trying to turn the camel into an efficient dairy animal with ever-increasing regular milk production assisted by mechanical handling. That’s a description of the typical bovine dairy animal of today.From a dairy perspective, the camel cow is genetically 200 years behind the average bovine dairy cow. The camel is nowhere near as docile, cooperative, nor as remotely productive as a modern …

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Scientists identify new genetic MND risk factor in junk DNA

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Genetic mutations within CAV1 and CAV2 enhancer regions. Credit: University of Sheffield

A new genetic risk factor for Motor Neurone Disease (MND), which if treated could halt or prevent the degenerative condition, has been identified in so-called ‘junk DNA’ by scientists at the University of Sheffield. The newly discovered genetic changes are present in up to one percent of MND patients.
The pioneering research, published in the journal Cell Reports, focused on genetic mutations in non-coding DNA, often known as junk DNA because it does not directly encode protein sequences. Non-coding DNA makes up more than 99 percent of the human genome, but currently is relatively unexplored.
This research includes new methods for studying mutations in non-coding DNA which could be applied to other diseases.
Experts from the Neuroscience Institute at the University of Sheffield also found that an existing neuroprotective drug developed at the University of California San Diego (UCSD) called SynCav1 could help MND patients carrying the newly discovered genetic mutation.
MND, or Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) as it is also known, is a disorder that affects the nerves—motor neurons—in the brain and spinal cord that form the connection between the nervous system and muscles to enable movement of the body. The messages from these nerves gradually stop reaching the muscles, leading them to weaken, stiffen and eventually waste.
The progressive disease affects a patient’s ability to walk, talk, use their arms and hands, eat and breathe. Approximately 5,000 people in the UK and 30,000 people in the US …

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