The Week in Genomics

By Rhonda Reinhart

Jonathan Bailey, NHGRI

Doctors use patient’s immune system to shrink tumors: Melinda Bachini’s cancer had spread from her bile duct to her liver and lungs, even with chemotherapy. But after she underwent a treatment called adoptive cell therapy, which used cells from her immune system to attack a specific mutation in the cancerous cells, her tumors began shrinking. Though similar therapies have led to remission for patients with leukemia and melanoma, Bachini’s story, published this week in the journal Science, marks the first time researchers have used a patient’s immune cells against solid tumors.

Scientists make breakthrough in artificial DNA: Bioengineers at Scripps Research Institute in California have successfully inserted two synthetic molecules into the genetic structure of an E. coli bacterium, making it the first living organism to carry an expanded genetic code. What does this mean? It means that scientists could one day use the modified E. coli to develop custom drugs, antibiotics, and vaccines that were never possible before.

Kids’ autism risk influenced equally by environment and genes: Researchers have long believed that autism spectrum disorders are caused by a mix of environmental and genetic factors, but a long-term study of more than 2 million newborns has found that genes and environment are equally important in assessing a child’s risk of developing an ASD. According to the study, published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association,  a child who has a brother or sister with autism has a 10-fold risk of developing the disorder.