Newsletter Digest: Nutrigenomics, IPCC errors and DNA forensics

Nutrigenomics – what is it exactly?

Genes, diet and gut health will be the focus of discussion in Auckland next week as scientists, nutritionists and food technologists gather for a conference looking at what the latest research says about how foods affect gene expression and therefore human health.

It is early days for nutrigenomics, but a group of New Zealand scientific organisations have an interest in this area and are interested in developing foods that can be matched to individual human genotypes to offer individualised health and nutritional benefits.

The conference features a range of international guests, including a lecture on public health nutrigenomics from Dr John Milner of the US’s National Cancer Institute.

IPCC errors – a scientist’s perspective

Ralph Sims, Professor of Sustainable Energy at Massey University’s Centre for Energy Research weighs into the climate change debate today with a column on news commentary website

Sims was a contributor to the IPCC’s 4th Assessment Report and as he points out in the column, a minor error was found in one of the chapters he authored – one which was introduced by the graphic artist creating a map accompanying the chapter. Sims further points out that such a weighty scientific document will contain errors, but that they do not undermine the validity of the conclusions the IPCC comes to in its 2007 report.

“…surely the most critical question of all is whether the threat of climate change, as presented by the science, has been now shown to be lower than was originally thought.

“If we take out of the equation the East Anglia models (accepting that such e-mails as reported were somewhat bizarre); the erroneous glacier report; the poorly analysed African food paper; the ocean energy potential error; and any other errors maybe still to be uncovered out of the thousands of pages, then can someone now produce a scientific paper arguing that there is NO RISK to mankind from anthropogenic climate change?”

DNA forensics – it’s come a long way

Dr Peter Gill of Strathclyde University doesn’t have a Wikipedia entry on him, but he was one of three researchers who effectively gave life to the science of DNA back in the mid-eighties and, as such, revolutionised how investigations of serious crimes are carried out.

Dr Gill was in New Zealand this week to work with scientists at ESR and to help celebrate 20 years of DNA forensics in New Zealand. The SMC held a briefing featuring Dr Gill and ESR’s Dr Sally Ann Harbison, which you can listen to here.

Also on Sciblogs: Peter Griffin looks at DNA profiling, its history, its future, and the problems it faces along the way.

Anna Sandiford looks at the CSI effect and the public perception of the capabilities of forensic science.