Saturday, June 22, 2013

Rizal genome project finds funding, ready to start mapping

 Adapted Article
Written by  Rouchelle R. Dinglasan

Timeline screenshot (Dr. Maria Corazon de Ungria)
Filipinos will soon get to know the country’s national hero like never before as the Philippine Genome Center (PGC) readies the reconstruction of Jose P. Rizal’s DNA (Deoxyribonucleic acid).

On a Monday night Facebook post, Dr. Corazon De Ungria, PGC program manager for forensics and ethnicity, confirmed that they will start mapping Rizal’s Maternal DNA.

“Our newest project has been approved! Funding from the OVPAA (University of the Philippines-Diliman’s Office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs) will be used to reconstruct Jose Rizal's DNA using the DNA of his descendants,” she said.

Why identify the dead?

Written by Gayvelline C. Calacal, RMT, MSc; Ma. Corazon de Ungria, PhD
STAR SCIENCE, Philippine Star

Rain opened the month of June this year. For those who were affected in previous years’ typhoons and who are still recovering from the aftermath, continuous strong rain brings back memories of loss of lives and properties in affected areas. Moreover, many survivors realize in a vivid way their total helplessness against an environment we have forgotten to protect. In 2011 for example, Typhoon Sendong caught the entire Philippines by surprise. The entire nation was shocked when it realized the extent of the damage and the large number of people that remain missing. Not used to typhoons and harsh weather, the cities of Iligan and Cagayan de Oro had to grapple with problems they had never encountered before. Both cities had to weigh their priorities and manage their resources to more effectively aid the communities that were most affected. In order to assist in the post-disaster effort, the University of the Philippines established “UP Padayon” and sent a multidisciplinary team composed of medical doctors, dentists, geologists, public health personnel, forensic pathologists and forensic DNA scientists to Iligan City several days after the flood. The forensic group tasked with specifically helping in the identification of recovered remains discovered the need for a more efficient system for disaster victim identification (DVI) when handling a disaster of such a magnitude.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Who's afraid of the GMO eggplant?

Written by Dr. Michael Purugganan
Originally Published Online GMA News Online
27 May 2013

The Court of Appeals recently struck a blow to GMO crops in the Philippines by its decision to stop field trials for Bt talong, a genetically modified (GMO) eggplant.  If successful, this biotech crop would have allowed Filipino farmers larger harvests while spraying less pesticides in their fields. 

We need to strike a note of caution, but not in the way the court ruling suggests. Instead, as we look at GMO crops, we must be careful we understand what they are, why they are an important technology to help us feed our people, and why the scientific community says they are safe. 

First, some science.

In conventional agriculture, plant breeders routinely use random mutations in crops to help select and develop new and improved varieties.  Plants naturally change and mutate their genetic material, altering, adding or removing genes, destroying or making new ones.  Traditional breeding starts by genetically crossing two different varieties.  If a rice breeder crosses two different rice varieties to develop a new one, for example, she is actually mixing together roughly 800,000 mutations, and in most cases we have no clue what these mutations do.

Instead of depending on random mutation or generations of cross-breeding, genetic engineering relies on inserting specific known genes into the DNA of a plant. GMO technology depends on our understanding how the gene we insert works, and changing the genome of the plant in a very limited way.