How “scientific” are your skin-care products?

Woman_applying_sunscreenAbout 13 years ago, when I returned from the UK with my rat-whiskers doctorate in hand and little idea of what I was going to do with it, I went to see a dermatologist. Continue reading “How “scientific” are your skin-care products?”

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The puzzle in a bee’s gut

BeeGutSometimes, serendipity arrives on the wings of disease. It was colony collapse disorder (CCD), a mysterious condition that hit honeybee hives in autumn 2006, that brought bees to the laboratory of evolutionary biologist Nancy Moran. Continue reading “The puzzle in a bee’s gut”

Gins of the Fathers: Alcohol and the Next Generation

05_GinsofFather_rotate5It’s something pediatricians are taught to discuss with their young patients: Alcoholism runs in families, they counsel, so if yours has a strong history of this condition, you should be especially careful about drinking. But researchers’ efforts to pin down specific genes that contribute to this heritability have largely come up short. “Nobody has found a smoking gun that says, This is a gene that causes alcoholism,” says Gregg Homanics, a professor of anesthesiology at the University of Pittsburgh (with a PhD in animal science). He and Andrey Finegersh, an MD/PhD student in his lab, decided to try a slightly different tack. “We thought that maybe in alcoholics, drinking a lot would cause some changes in what controls the genes—and that is what gets passed down to the next generation,” says Homanics. The findings from the resulting study were published in PLOS ONE in June.

[Read more at Pitt Med Magazine (scroll down to third story) // Fall 2014]

Momentum grows to make ‘personalized’ medicine more ‘precise’

In 2009, Wisconsin clinicians sequenced all the protein-coding DNA of a very ill 4-year-old boy named Nicholas Volker. They used the results to pinpoint a gene mutation at the root of his life-threatening gut inflammation, as well as to identify a risky but ultimately effective treatment. Nicholas’s story was hailed as one of the first successes in the long-promised goal of using sequencing to steer clinical decisions. But as the approach proliferates in the treatment of rare genetic diseases, cancers and other areas of medicine, researchers say it’s time to change both the name and the framework of a field that for more than a decade has been termed ‘personalized medicine’.

[Read more at Nature Medicine (paywall) or download PDF // March 6, 2013]

Gene tests for brain injury still far from the football field

Last month, doctors released the autopsy results of former Chicago Bears star Dave Duerson, confirming speculation that the professional football player had suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a form of dementia thought to be caused by years of head injuries sustained on the field. Did he carry a genetic signature that predisposed him to the disease? For almost two decades researchers have hunted—some would say in vain—for genes that might make people more susceptible to dementia from traumatic brain injuries. In February, just days after Duerson committed suicide by a shot to the stomach, researchers published another paper that touched on the role genes might have in CTE, but the connection remains controversial.

[Read more at Nature Medicine (paywall) or download PDF // June 6, 2011]