Frontiers in Genetics

March 31 – May 5, 2016

Advances in genetics attract controversy.  Darwin’s theory of natural selection was attacked for the questions it raised about the origins of man.  Today, stunning breakthroughs in genetics promise to cure disease and feed the world. They also introduce ethical dilemmas and questions of security.

In this program, we will explore frontiers in genetics. Experts will talk about personalized medicine, GMO foods (i.e. genetically modified), evolutionary genetics, and new learning about brain diseases. Together we will tackle the big questions:  Is it safe to tamper with genes? Should scientists “play God”? And who owns your genetic information anyway?

The history of genetics and personalized healthcare 
Dr. Katherine Siminovitch (Mount Sinai Hospital, Toronto).

Because of rapid advances in genetics, healthcare is poised to change from its historical reactive, trial-and-error model. It will be intelligent and evidence-based, capable of providing patients with individually appropriate and timely medical help.

April 7, 2016

Genetics and agriculture

Dr. Rene van Acker (Ontario Agricultural College at the University of Guelph).

Farmers have been improving crops and livestock through selective breeding – that is, selecting genotypes – for more than ten thousand years. Today, despite noisy opposition, genetic manipulation of plants and animals allows us to feed growing populations, sustain the environment, and grow the economy.

April 14, 2016

Genetics and Alzheimer’s disease

Dr. Ekaterina Rogaeva (University of Toronto).

At least 28 genes contribute to the risk for this common form of dementia. By detecting individuals with potentially damaging mutations, early treatment with new medications could lessen the severity of neuronal loss.

April 21, 2016

Genetics, ethics and civil liberties

Dr. Yann Joly (McGill University, Montreal).

Major scientific achievements like the Human Genome Project have fostered consensus that genetic data should be shared openly. This raises significant ethical, social and policy issues. They must be carefully addressed for secure and efficient scientific progress.

April 28, 2016

The human genome and evolution

Dr. Aneil Agrawal (University of Toronto).

The human genome reflects the outcome of several evolutionary processes, of which natural selection is only one. What can patterns in genetic variation teach us about our evolutionary history and genetic disease?

Note: The above presentation was recorded. View it here.

May 5, 2016

Genetic testing in the era of individualized medicine: friend, foe, or forgettable acquaintance?  Dr. Hanna Faghfoury  (Toronto’s University Health Network)

Since the discovery of DNA, there has been much enthusiasm about the promises of genetic testing. There is an abundance of genetic tests that are available to individuals and medical professionals, with varying degrees of utility. Does the hype live up to the reality?

Port Hope Public Library, 31 Queen Street
9:00 am to 11:00 am

April 1, 2016

Personalized medicine in practice

Dr. Katherine Siminovitch (Mount Sinai Hospital, Toronto)

Researchers have discovered how gene mutations impair, for example, immune cell function – and clinicians are taking their discovery from the laboratory bench to the clinic.

April 8, 2016

The future of food production

Dr. Rene van Acker (Ontario Agricultural College at the University of Guelph)

Selection of plants and animals to suit our food needs, practised since the dawn of farming, is accelerating through new technologies that bring both promise and concern.

April 15, 2016

Parkinson’s disease: trouble-making genes and other risk factors

Dr. Ekaterina Rogaeva (University of Toronto)

What contribution of genetic defects results in Parkinson’s disease, and what roles are played by other factors such as drugs, sex, diet and head trauma?

April 22, 2016

The implications of sharing genetic data

Ida Ngueng Feze and Adrian Thorogood (McGill University)

Can individual privacy and the public health imperatives of sharing genomic information be reconciled? If not, how can we strike a fair balance between the two?

April 29, 2016

Why reproduce sexually?  

Dr. Aneil Agrawal (University of Toronto)

The vast majority of plants and animals reproduce sexually, often at great evolutionary cost.  The reason remains a mystery though several hypotheses are worth considering.

Elizabeth Ivory