2007 September

Geeky DNA T-Shirts: Little Girls

by Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei
Posted September 25, 2007 in Geeky DNA T-shirts

what are little girls made of dna

Here’s the geeky DNA t-shirt for today from Wasted, Inc.!

What are little
girls made of?

Adenine Cytosine Thymine Guanine

It would be the perfect t-shirt to wear to the 3rd anniversary edition of Grand Rounds over at Kevin MD.

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Eye on DNA Headlines for 24 September 2007

by Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei
Posted September 24, 2007 in DNA Podcasts and Videos, DNA Testing, Eye on DNA Headlines

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Genetics and Personal Genomics in The Boston Globe

by Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei
Posted September 24, 2007 in DNA in General

dna basesThe Boston Globe’s Health and Science section has a number of stories about genetics and personal genomics today. Here are the excerpts.

Colin Nickerson looks at DNA unraveled, which is a sweeping overview of the current state of genetics.

But the picture now emerging is more complicated, one in which illness, health, and evolutionary change appear to be the work of almost fantastical coordination between genes and swaths of DNA previously written off as junk.

Peter Dizikes writes Gene information opens new frontier in privacy featuring Dr. George Church at the Personal Genome Project.

And yet, employers and insurers are not the only companies interested in genetics. The nascent industry of genetic diagnostics – in which companies offer at-home kits allowing customers to send off DNA samples for analysis – might not be restricted by [Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act] (GINA) or other laws.

In those cases, customers would need to read the fine print to make sure their DNA would not be sold to, say, pharmaceutical companies.

Carey Goldberg shares her perspective Of genes and motherhood.

Even when we each start carrying around our personal genome disks in our pockets, our data will differ from our children’s in thousands of ways. And even where our genes look identical to theirs, our bodies and minds could well differ, influenced by many other factors, including the portions of our DNA that don’t code for genes, our environment, and our behavior.

Andrew Rimas features Dr. Levi Garraway who trolls the genome for cancer clues.

“The big premise that underlies our work is that cancer is a disease of the genome,” says Garraway, 39. “What goes wrong in a cancer cell? The genome is deranged, the DNA is mutated. But embedded within those chaotic changes are answers.”

The Globe also has a list of The Genome 10, participants in the Personal Genome Project including DNA Network member Dr. Misha Angrist. Blaine at The Genetic Genealogist has more on the PGP-10.

Image: DNA bases represented by lit letters from Wellcome Images under Creative Commons.

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Flickr Comments on DNA

by Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei
Posted September 24, 2007 in DNA Fun

Last week I shared some interesting comments on DNA Direct inspired by the blue awning that fronts the office door at San Francisco’s Pier 9. Today, I’m sharing a 2005 photo of DNA Direct CEO Ryan Phelan’s karyotype from Esther Dyson’s Flickr photostream.

ryan phelan karyotype

Emily Scott, Esther Dyson’s half-sister and practicing cardiologist, said:

Our kids were all karyotyped, so we know they are really what they appear to be.

Matt Sprolin aka Automatt:

Funny that this is based on what you see through the microscope. If only someone would produce a useful information display that could encapsulate at a glance what is known to science about a person’s karyotype. It could use sparklines and treemaps, and automatically update itself as research reveals new genotypic links.

Closer to star trek medicine– It could come to the consumer in the form of a credit-card sized display that automatically updates itself, that you carry in your wallet.

Matt, your fantasy may not be too far off…. iGene in your pocket!

NB: I work for DNA Direct as a genetic information specialist.

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What’s in your DNA? #11

by Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei
Posted September 23, 2007 in In Your DNA

Is it my imagination or do references to DNA and genetics seem to be more frequent than ever?

In an article about the science of postcodes, Jasper Gerard writes:

It’s in the DNA of the British to keep up appearances. Even the Queen patches her carpets.

fire fighter 01Firefighter Pat McElroy responding to another firefighter’s complaints (via I Speak of Dreams):

Like soldiers, firefighters are known for a number of traits, but one that is genetically implanted is b*tching.

Rick LePage writing at Macworld on Adobe and Apple:

Yes, 25 years after its founding, Adobe’s DNA is still part of Apple.

Xun at Emma and Annya:

I am a parent frugal by nature (inherited the genes); by upbringing (born and raised with a scarcity in everything, food, books, no toys to speak of) and by reality (two little kids, a meager income, and burning desire for the kids to become something).

Holland Cotter of the New York Times (HT: Kristina):

“Bridging East and West: The Chinese Diaspora and Lin Yutang” weaves like a DNA strand through the Metropolitan Museum’s Chinese galleries. Focused on a single-family art collection, the show has the casual logic of a household photo album, with evidence of shared habits, tastes and temperaments, and of rapport between generations.

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Most Powerful Women in Biotechnology and Healthcare

by Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei
Posted September 22, 2007 in Personalities with DNA

With much talk this past week that women science bloggers were not well represented in The Scientist article on favorite life science blogs, I thought it might be good to be reminded of how powerful women have become around the world. Late last month, Forbes.com (fond of making lists of the wealthy and fabulous) created a list of the world’s 100 most powerful women. Out of these, here are the women who have power in biotechnology and healthcare, not including government leaders who are obviously involved in peripheral ways.

17. Angela Braly – Chief executive, WellPoint

At the youthful age of 46, with only a few years of operational business experience, Braly has become the most powerful woman in health care. The 42,000-employee behemoth runs Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans in 14 states and its health plans have up to 60% market share.

24. Melinda Gates – Co-chairman, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

In addition to focusing on health issues and conquering AIDS, the $33.4 billion foundation Gates has run with her husband for the past 10 years began making grants in 2006 aimed at ending hunger and poverty.

32. Dr. Julie Louise Gerberding – Director, Center for Disease Control and Prevention

She runs the government agency that strives to track and control microscopic threats to the health of the U.S. population.

37. Margaret Chan, Director-general, World Health Organization

Chan has dedicated herself to minimizing epidemics before they happen by better disseminating information about diseases and outbreaks around the world.

46. Christine Poon – Vice chairman, Johnson & Johnson

Poon is responsible for managing the pharmaceutical, consumer drug and nutritional businesses of the company, in addition to overseeing its expanding R&D pipeline.

susan desmond hellman61. Susan Desmond-Hellman – President, product development, Genentech

Widely considered the most powerful woman in biotech, Desmond-Hellmann came to Genentech in 1995 after having designed the studies that got Taxol, a breakthrough chemotherapy, approved at Bristol-Myers Squibb. Within a year, Desmond-Hellmann became the company’s chief medical officer.

86. Stephanie A. Burns – Chairman, chief executive, Dow Corning

Burns rose through the ranks as a scientist at Dow Corning, becoming chief executive in February 2003. Today she oversees a company whose silicon-based technologies are inside a wide range of products, from baby wipes to highways.

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DNA Video: Part Two of the Human Genome Special on the Charlie Rose Show

by Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei
Posted September 22, 2007 in DNA Podcasts and Videos, Personalities with DNA

This episode of the Human Genome special on the Charlie Rose Show featured Paul Nurse, James Watson, Eric Lander, and Craig Venter.

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Calorie Restriction Boosts Gene Activity Protecting Cells from Aging

by Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei
Posted September 22, 2007 in DNA in General

spinach saladFolks following the calorie restriction with optimal nutrition (CRON) lifestyle must be crowing with delight today. New research shows that calorie restriction puts cells under stress but instead of causing cell damage, two genes–SIRT3 and SIRT4–are activated that actually protect cells from aging. Dr. David Sinclair has found that cells from laboratory rodents who were made made to fast for 48 hours experienced the following sequence of events:

  1. Activation of the Nampt protein
  2. Boost in mitochondrial NAD+ production
  3. Activation of SIRT3 and SIRT4 genes which begin producing enzymes
  4. These enzymes rejuvenate the mitochondria so that it can continue generating energy for the cell. Consequently, apoptosis (cell death) and resultant aging are delayed.

Peter Voss has written a number of articles about CRON in which he says that calorie restriction does not have to be difficult or unpleasant. He says CRON practitioners should aim for a target BMI of around 18.5 or body fat of about 5% for men and 8% for women.

And you may wonder as I did – What’s the difference between calorie restriction and anorexia? CRON follower and former anorexic Emi says:

CRON is all about nutrition for optimum health. When I was in AN [anorexia] mode I didn’t care about anything other than calories. So I totally shunned fat in any form, stayed away from high carb food, minimized protein, and generally just nibbled on carrots, apples, celery, and the other usual stuff. No concept of nutrition was in my head, no ideas about how food was a source of life, health, and even an increased lifespan.

CRON is the opposite. It’s all about eating, with the focus being on as much nutritional bang for the buck as possible. So there isn’t a lot of room for junk food, sweets, or desserts, because they just aren’t nutritious. There is a lot of room for vegetables, fruit, lean protein sources, and high-quality fats.

For more information, visit the Calorie Restriction Society of “people trying to live longer by eating fewer calories.”

Could you do with a little calorie restriction? I know I could….

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DNA Quote: Dr. John Groopman

by Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei
Posted September 21, 2007 in DNA Quotes and Excerpts

john groopmanDr. John Groopman in the Johns Hopkins Public Health Magazine feature – The Genetic Journey:

Humans are 99.2 percent similar to a chimpanzee, but as [Hopkins cancer researcher] Don Coffey has pointed out, no chimpanzee has ever written a piano concerto. Why is that? Well, in addition to epigenetics, it’s because of our cell signaling pathways. They are truly the wiring network in our cells. When they’re triggered, they lead to a specific set of expressions of genes, telling a cell to proliferate, to die, to send out new blood vessels… These signaling pathways are how a cell does all these things. I’ll go out on a limb here: Most human disease is driven at the end of the day by these signaling pathways getting messed up and leading to disease too early in life.

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Eye on DNA Headlines for 20 September 2007

by Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei
Posted September 20, 2007 in DNA Podcasts and Videos, DNA Testing, Eye on DNA Headlines

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