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5 December 2013 11:26 am ,
Vol. 342 ,
Researchers have been hot on the trail of the elusive Denisovans, a type of ancient human known only by their DNA and...
Thousands of scientists in the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) are about to lose their jobs as a result of the...
Dyslexia, a learning disability that hinders reading, hasn't been associated with deficits in vision, hearing, or...
Exotic, elusive, and dangerous, snakes have fascinated humankind for millennia. They can be hard to find, yet their...
Researchers have sequenced and analyzed the first two snake genomes, which represent two evolutionary extremes. The...
Snake venoms are remarkably complex mixtures that can stun or kill prey within minutes. But more and more researchers...
At age 30, Dutch biologist Freek Vonk has built up a respectable career as a snake scientist. But in his home country,...
Since arriving on the island of Guam in the 1940s, the brown tree snake ( Boiga irregularis ) has extirpated native...
- 5 December 2013 11:26 am , Vol. 342 , #6163
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Panel Recommends Defining Select Agents by DNA Sequence
3 August 2010 12:33 pm
Anthrax, Ebola, and smallpox are all dangerous pathogens that belong to a list of so-called select agents whose handling and storage are subject to special government regulations. But what about synthetically designed genomes that could be potentially as deadly as known pathogens?
The way to bring such unknown entities under regulation, according to a new National Academies report issued today, is to develop a new system of defining select agents based on DNA sequences. "That would provide a very sharp, bright line" to help gene-synthesis companies and their clients decide if a genomic sequence "meets the definition of a select agent or not," says Sean Eddy, a biologist at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Janelia Farm Research Campus in Ashburn, Virginia, and one of the report's authors.
He says the proposed classification system could also help gene-synthesis companies and government officials spot potential bioterrorism plots involving novel organisms cobbled together from different pieces of custom-ordered DNA.
Not only would such a system help address biosecurity concerns, "it would also allow us to better define emerging diseases," says James LeDuc, chair of the panel and director of the Galveston National Laboratory at the University of Texas Medical Branch. LeDuc hopes that the government will consider sequence-based classification as it implements a new plan to tier select agents by risk.
A full story on the report and its implications is in the 6 August issue of Science.