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Publications

At MedGenome, we are deeply focused on continuous innovation, and publishing our findings for the larger benefit of the genetic testing community. Read through our publications for details of our latest work.

Date: December 9, 2019

Abstract
Background
Studies evaluating next‐generation sequencing (NGS) for retinal disorders may not reflect clinical practice. We report results of retrospective analysis of patients referred for clinical testing at two institutions (US and India).

Methods
This retrospective study of 131 patients who underwent clinically validated targeted NGS or exome sequencing for a wide variety of clinical phenotypes categorized results into a definitive, indeterminate, or negative molecular diagnosis.

Results
A definitive molecular diagnosis (52%) was more common in the India cohort (62% vs. 39%, p = .009), while an indeterminate molecular diagnosis occurred only in the US cohort (12%). In the US cohort, a lower diagnostic rate in Hispanic, non‐Caucasians (23%) was seen compared to Caucasians (57%). The India cohort had a high rate of homozygous variants (61%) and different frequency of genes involved compared to the US cohort.

Conclusion
Despite inherent limitations in clinical testing, the diagnostic rate across the two cohorts (52%) was similar to the 50%–65% diagnostic rate in the literature. However, the diagnostic rate was lower in the US cohort and appears partly explained by racial background. The high rate of consanguinity in the Indian population is reflected in the high rate of homozygosity for pathogenic mutations and may have implications for population level screening and genetic counseling. Clinical laboratories may note diagnostic rates that differ from the literature, due to factors such as heterogeneity in racial background or consanguinity rates in the populations being tested. This information may be useful for post‐test counseling.

Date: April 16, 2020

Retinoblastoma is a rare pediatric tumor of the retina, caused by the homozygous loss of the Retinoblastoma 1 (RB1) tumor suppressor gene. Previous microarray studies have identified changes in the expression profiles of coding genes; however, our understanding of how non-coding genes change in this tumor is absent. This is an important area of research, as in many adult malignancies, non-coding genes including LNC-RNAs are used as biomarkers to predict outcome and/or relapse. To establish a complete and in-depth RNA profile, of both coding and non-coding genes, in Retinoblastoma tumors, we conducted RNA-seq from a cohort of tumors and normal retina controls. This analysis identified widespread transcriptional changes in the levels of both coding and non-coding genes. Unexpectedly, we also found rare RNA fusion products resulting from genomic alterations, specific to Retinoblastoma tumor samples. We then determined whether these gene expression changes, of both coding and non-coding genes, were also found in a completely independent Retinoblastoma cohort. Using our dataset, we then profiled the potential effects of deregulated LNC-RNAs on the expression of neighboring genes, the entire genome, and on mRNAs that contain a putative area of homology. This analysis showed that most deregulated LNC-RNAs do not act locally to change the transcriptional environment, but potentially function to modulate genes at distant sites. From this analysis, we selected a strongly down-regulated LNC-RNA in Retinoblastoma, DRAIC, and found that restoring DRAIC RNA levels significantly slowed the growth of the Y79 Retinoblastoma cell line. Collectively, our work has generated the first non-coding RNA profile of Retinoblastoma tumors and has found that these tumors show widespread transcriptional deregulation.

Date: April 14, 2020

KMT2B-related dystonia is characterized by childhood-onset and progressive disease course with prominent lower-limb, cervical, cranial, and laryngeal involvement [ 1 ]. Developmental delay and intellectual disability are commonly reported [ 1 , 2 ]. Here we are reporting an Indian patient with KMT2B-related dystonia who had a disease onset at the age of 19 years. Other interesting features in our patient were normal cognition, dystonic opisthotonus, and absence of oromandibular and laryngeal dystonia.

Date: April 10, 2020

Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is the cause of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) that has resulted in a global pandemic. It is a highly contagious positive strand RNA virus and its clinical presentation includes severe to critical respiratory disease that appears to be fatal in ~3-5% of the cases. The viral spike (S) coat protein engages the human angiotensin-converting enzyme2 (ACE2) cell surface protein to invade the host cell. The SARS-CoV-2 S-protein has acquired mutations that increase its affinity to human ACE2 by ~10-15-fold compared to SARS-CoV S-protein, making it highly infectious. In this study, we assessed if ACE2 polymorphisms might alter host susceptibility to SARS-CoV-2 by affecting the ACE2 S-protein interaction. Our comprehensive analysis of several large genomic datasets that included over 290,000 samples representing >400 population groups identified multiple ACE2 protein-altering variants, some of which mapped to the S-protein-interacting ACE2 surface. Using recently reported structural data and a recent S-protein-interacting synthetic mutant map of ACE2, we have identified natural ACE2 variants that are predicted to alter the virus-host interaction and thereby potentially alter host susceptibility. In particular, human ACE2 variants S19P, I21V, E23K, K26R, T27A, N64K, T92I, Q102P and H378R are predicted to increase susceptibility. The T92I variant, part of a consensus NxS/T N-glycosylation motif, confirmed the role of N90 glycosylation in immunity from non-human CoVs. Other ACE2 variants K31R, N33I, H34R, E35K, E37K, D38V, Y50F, N51S, M62V, K68E, F72V, Y83H, G326E, G352V, D355N, Q388L and D509Y are putative protective variants predicted to show decreased binding to SARS-CoV-2 S-protein. Overall, ACE2 variants are rare, consistent with the lack of selection pressure given the recent history of SARS-CoV epidemics, however, are likely to play an important role in altering susceptibility to CoVs.

Date: March 1, 2020

Cervical cancer is a growing and serious problem world-wide in women, but more acute in developing countries especially in Indian subcontinent. The main causative agent for the disease is Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). The history of the cervical cancer goes back to eighteenth century as the HPV infection is reported since 1800s. Presently, the genetic structure of HPV is well defined. Several screening tests including cytology and visual based screening and high risk HPV testing are available. Also available are various clinical and commercial diagnostic tests. However due to the lack of awareness and population-based screening programs, the morbidity and mortality rate is alarmingly high. There are new emerging biomarkers including E6/E7 mRNA, p16ink4a, markers of aberrant S-phase induction, chromosomal abnormalities and miRNAs along with advanced genotyping methods. These markers have clinical significance and are helpful in disease prevention and management. Further, recent advancement in the field of metagenomics has increased the prospects of identifying newer microbes, viruses hitherto reported thus far in the context of HPV infection. Analysis of HPV cases using modern tools including genotyping using more powerful biomarkers is envisaged to enhance the prospects of early diagnosis, better prognosis, more reliable treatment and eventual management of the disease.

Date: March 1, 2020

We report a family with a spectrum of short stature, craniofacial dysmorphism, and digital anomalies in a father and 2 daughters, with the youngest (proband) displaying a severe phenotype. Clinically, autosomal dominant Robinow syndrome (ADRS) was diagnosed. Whole-exome sequencing identified a heterozygous pathogenic BMP2 variant in the father and his daughters. The phenotype of short stature, facial dysmorphism, and skeletal anomalies with or without cardiac anomalies related to BMP2 haploinsufficiency has some facial and digital resemblance to ADRS. Although this variant segregated in the affected members, it failed to explain the severe phenotype of the proband. A reanalysis of the girl’s raw data confirmed 2 disorders: a de novo likely pathogenic DVL1 variant implicated in ADRS and the familial BMP2 variant. A close interplay of high-throughput sequencing and deep phenotyping unraveled the complexities of the blended phenotype in the proband.

Date: February 20, 2020

Tuberculosis is the leading cause of death among infectious diseases worldwide. Detection of Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb), using routine culture-based methods is time consuming resulting in delayed diagnosis and poor treatment outcomes. Currently available molecular tests provide faster diagnosis but are able to screen only limited hot-spot mutations. Whole genome sequencing from direct sputum offers a potential solution, however, due to the presence of other microbes and host DNA its use in diagnostic testing remains challenging.
In this study, we present a targeted Mtb-enrichment assay for lineage-4 coupled with an improved analysis pipeline that uses 1657 bacterial taxa as background for reducing non-Mtb genome from sputum DNA. This method drastically improved the recovery of Mtb DNA from sputum (Mtb alignment increased from 3% to >65%) as compared to non-enrichment-based sequencing. We obtained 99% Mtb genome coverage as compared to 49% in non-enriched sputum sequencing. We were able to identify Mtb positive samples from controls with 100% accuracy using Mpt64 gene coverage. Our method not only achieved 100% sensitivity to resistance variants profiled by line probe assay (LPA), but also outperformed LPA in determining drug resistance based on phenotypic drug susceptibility tests for 6 anti-tuberculosis drugs (accuracy of 97.7% and 92.8% by enriched WGS and LPA, respectively).

Date: February 4, 2020

How satellite cells and their progenitors balance differentiation and self-renewal to achieve sustainable tissue regeneration is not well understood. A major roadblock to understanding satellite cell fate decisions has been the difficulty of studying this process in vivo. By visualizing expression dynamics of myogenic transcription factors during early regeneration in vivo, we identify the time point at which cells undergo decisions to differentiate or self-renew. Single-cell RNA sequencing reveals heterogeneity of satellite cells, including a subpopulation enriched in Notch2 receptor expression, during both muscle homeostasis and regeneration. Furthermore, we reveal that differentiating cells express the Dll1 ligand. Using antagonistic antibodies, we demonstrate that the DLL1 and NOTCH2 signaling pair is required for satellite cell self-renewal. Thus, differentiating cells provide the self-renewing signal during regeneration, enabling proportional regeneration in response to injury while maintaining the satellite cell pool. These findings have implications for therapeutic control of muscle regeneration.

Date: February 1, 2020

Epstein Barr Viral infection is a common childhood infection in India and is also nearly 100 % etiologically associated with pediatric Hodgkin Lymphoma (HL). The main question in EBV immunobiology has been, why only a small subset of infected individuals develop EBV associated malignancies, while the vast majority carry this virus asymptomatically for life. Natural Killer (NK) cells, with a phenotype of CD56dim CD16+ exhibit potent cytotoxicity towards both virus infected cells and transformed cells and hence have been considered to be crucial in preventing the development of symptomatic EBV infection and lymphoma. In order to get an insight into the various possible molecular aspects of NK cells, in the pathogenesis of both these EBV mediated diseases in children we studied the whole transcriptome of MACS sorted CD56dim CD16 + NK cells from four patients from each of the three groups of children viz. Infectious Mononucleosis (IM), HL and age matched controls by using a massively parallel sequencing approach. NK cells from both IM and HL had down-regulated innate immunity and chemokine signaling genes. While down-regulation of genes responsible for polarization of the secretory apparatus, activated NK cell signaling and MAP kinase signaling were exclusive to NK cells in patients with IM, in NK cells of HL, specifically, genes involved in extracellular matrix (ECM) – receptor interaction, cytokine-cytokine receptor interaction, TNF signaling, Toll-like receptor signaling pathway and cytosolic DNA-sensing pathways were significantly down-regulated. Enrichment analysis showed STAT3 to be the most significant transcription factor (TF) for the down-regulated genes in IM, whereas, GATA1 was found to be the most significant TF for the genes down-regulated in HL. Analysis of protein interaction network identified functionally important protein clusters. Top clusters, comprised of down-regulated genes, involved in signaling and ubiquitin-related processes and pathways. These may perhaps be responsible for the hypo-responsiveness of NK cells in both diseases. These possibly point to different deficiencies in NK cell activation, loss of activating receptor signaling and degranulation in IM, versus loss of cytokine and chemokine signaling in HL, in the two EBV associated pathologies investigated. Various suppressed molecules and pathways were novel, which have not been reported earlier and could therefore be potential targets for immunotherapy of NK cell reactivation in both the diseases in future.

Date: January 21, 2020

The T-box4 (TBX4) gene (OMIM *601719) belongs to the T-box family of transcription regulators that share a conserved homology domain and are expressed at specific sites during various stages of embryonic development. Tbx4 has been found to be a crucial transcriptional regulator in embryonic hindlimb development in animal models. Monoallelic variants in the TBX4 gene are reported to be associated with skeletal defects of the pelvis and lower limbs. We report here a fetus with a novel multiple malformation syndrome associated with sacrococcygeal agenesis, bilateral lower limb aplasia, hypoplastic left heart, bilateral lung hypoplasia, hydroureteronephrosis, and nonimmune fetal hydrops, found to have a homozygous nonsense variant in the TBX4 gene. We propose that biallelic variants in the TBX4 gene are associated with a severe syndromic phenotype of sacrococcygeal agenesis and lower limb reduction defects.

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