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February 2013
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April 2013

You Don't "Own" Your Own Genes

RESEARCHERS RAISE ALARM ABOUT LOSS OF INDIVIDUAL "GENOMIC LIBERTY" DUE TO GENE PATENTS THAT MAY IMPACT THE ERA OF PERSONALIZED MEDICINE

NEW YORK (March 25, 2013) — Humans don't "own" their own genes, the cellular chemicals that define who they are and what diseases they might be at risk for. Through more than 40,000 patents on DNA molecules, companies have essentially claimed the entire human genome for profit, report two researchers who analyzed the patents on human DNA. Their study, published March 25 in the journal Genome Medicine, raises an alarm about the loss of individual "genomic liberty."

In their new analysis, the research team examined two types of patented DNA sequences: long and short fragments. They discovered that 41 percent of the human genome is covered by longer DNA patents that often cover whole genes. They also found that, because many genes share similar sequences within their genetic structure, if all of the "short sequence" patents were allowed in aggregate, they could account for 100 percent of the genome.

Furthermore, the study's lead author, Dr. Christopher E. Mason of Weill Cornell Medical College, and the study's co-author, Dr. Jeffrey Rosenfeld, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Medicine & Dentistry of New Jersey and a member of the High Performance and Research Computing Group, found that short sequences from patents also cover virtually the entire genome — even outside of genes.

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UW study is key step toward treating disease with stem cells

By Mark Johnson of the Journal Sentinel

In a powerful demonstration of reprogramming's potential to treat human disease and injury, scientists at University of Wisconsin-Madison turned a rhesus monkey's skin cells into early brain cells, then implanted them successfully in the monkey's brain.

The experiment, published Thursday in the journal Cell Reports, worked so well that the reprogrammed cells grafted onto the brain and appeared indistinguishable from the cells already there. Scientists were able to identify the new cells only because they had been tagged with a glowing green fluorescent protein.

Before being injected with their own cells, the three monkeys in the study were engineered to simulate the effects of Parkinson's Disease.

Although the experiment was carried out on monkeys, the results suggest that such an approach could work in humans, raising the possibility that doctors might someday replace the neurons lost to Parkinson's or the cells damaged in spinal cord injuries.

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