News Briefs| Volume 17, ISSUE 1, P1-2, January 2015

News Briefs

        Cat genome confirms that pet cats maintain wild streak

        The first complete report of the domestic cat genome reveals that, although our pet cats harbor genetic variations that allow them to tolerate their human companions, they are still wild at heart. After comparing the genome of Cinnamon, a female Abyssinian, with others, including tiger, dog, cow, and human genomes, researchers recently reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that cats maintain much of the genomic traits of their wild counterparts, owing to lack of selective pressure to eliminate such traits after their initial domestication. The researchers did find changes in genes hypothesized to be linked to domestication syndrome, that is, behavioral changes brought on by mild neural crest cell deficits during gestation. These changes probably occurred as a result of humans having selected companion animals for docility. Indeed, investigators found changes in genes implicated in neural crest cell migration, in agreement with analyses of the genomes of other domesticated animals, including dogs. But our furry friends differ in the extent of genomic change, with dogs having many more genetic changes, probably due to their longer association with people and more human selection for physical and behavioral traits. Another major difference the team noted between cats and dogs was an apparent trade-off between acute scent perception in dogs and chemosensory acuity in cats, which rely on pheromone detection for social communications. The presence of white spotting provided the only clear phenotypic hallmark of domestication, with genes inducing all-white fur, white spotting, and white “gloves” showing up in the analysis. The cat reference genome is now available in the GenBank database. —Karyn Hede, News Editor
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        Canadians challenge US gene patents

        A Canadian hospital, fed up with being forced to pay thousands to United States–based companies to test patients for rare genetic diseases, is challenging the legality of these gene patents. Court papers filed in late 2014 in the Federal Court of Canada claim that gene patents are constraining the ability of Canadian doctors to provide care to patients. The argument is that physicians should be able to test for genetic diseases without the threat of a lawsuit from patent holders. The Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario started the legal process to force the issue of whether human genes can be patented in Canada. The legal case is based on patents for genes associated with long QT syndrome, an inherited heart-rhythm disorder that can result in sudden death. In its court filing, the hospital named as defendants the University of Utah Research Foundation, Yale University, Genzyme Genetics, and other US patent holders, in addition to the US lab that provides the pertinent test (LabCorp, in Burlington, North Carolina). The lab charges about $4,500 per test, according to the Canadian hospital, which claims that, if permitted, it could do the equivalent test in house for about half that price. The Canadian legal case seeks to create an opening to allow expanded testing for thousands of genes linked to human disease. —Karyn Hede, News Editor
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        Genetics in Medicine Mission Statement

        Genetics in Medicine is a monthly journal committed to the timely publication of:
        • Original reports which enhance the knowledge and practice of medical genetics
        • Strategies and innovative approaches to the education of medical providers at all levels in the realm of genetics
        As the official journal of the American College of Medical Genetics and Genomics (ACMG), the journal will:
        • Provide a forum for discussion, debate and innovation concerning the changing and expanding role of medical genetics within the broader context of medicine
        • Fulfill our responsibility to the College membership through the publication of guidelines, policy statements and other information that enhances the practice and understanding of medical genetics
        Finally, as genetics becomes increasingly important in the wider medical arena, we will be an accessible and authoritative resource for the dissemination of medical genetic knowledge to providers outside of the genetics community through appropriate reviews, discussions, recommendations and guidelines.