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Researchers Identify Gene Associated With Cold Sore Outbreaks

Image from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/Dr. Hermann

Investigators identified a specific, previously obscure human gene associated with susceptibility to herpes simplex labialis (HSL), the common cold sore.

Cold sores affect 70% of the U.S. population. This study follows previous ones identifying a region of chromosome 21 as a base for genes possibly linked to cold sore outbreaks.

To narrow in further on the chromosome, this study used Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at ACP Internist*

Research Shows That Genes Are Most Important For Extreme Longevity

People with exceptional longevity have the same bad lifestyle habits as the rest of us, suggesting that their genes may interact with environmental factors differently than others. There’s not much you can do if you’re not one of the lucky ones born with superior genes. For the rest of us, a healthy lifestyle is still the best option to live longer.

To assess lifestyle factors including physical activity, smoking, alcohol consumption, and diet in men and women with exceptional longevity, researchers conducted a retrospective cohort study of community dwelling Ashkenazi Jews with exceptional longevity defined living independently at age 95 and older. The Ashkenazi population descended from tens of thousands of Jews originating in the 15th Century who eventually moved to or were born in the U.S. before World War II.

The researchers compared Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at ACP Internist*

The “DNA Dilemma”

Mary Carmichael of Newsweek had a great series of articles focusing on direct-to-consumer genetic testing. An excerpt:

I’ve been following DTC genetics since 2007, when wide scanning first became available to the public. Since then, a number of writers have gotten wide-scale genetic tests and expounded on the results. Indeed, I sometimes wonder if I’m the last science reporter on earth with virgin genes. (Technical virgin: My doctor gave me a cystic fibrosis carrier test when I was pregnant.) Initially, I put off getting a full-genome scan because I wasn’t sure how useful such a test would be. I had no particular reason to take one, save curiosity. I wouldn’t expect to find anything serious and potentially life-altering like the Huntington’s disease gene in my results, because my family medical history is thankfully rather boring. The data most likely to be medically relevant to me would concern the genetics of common diseases, and at the time, many comprehensive and well-designed studies of those were still getting underway. I decided to wait a few years and see how research progressed. But here I am, three years later, still unsure.

*This blog post was originally published at ScienceRoll*

No More Patents On Human Genes

It was just time to end the era of gene patents. About 20 percent of human genes have patents, which is unacceptable. Here’s an excerpt from the New York Times story:

A federal judge on Monday struck down patents on two genes linked to breast and ovarian cancer. The decision, if upheld, could throw into doubt the patents covering thousands of human genes and reshape the law of intellectual property.

One of the individual plaintiffs in the suit, Genae Girard, who has breast cancer and has been tested for ovarian cancer, applauded the decision as “a big turning point for all women in the country that may have breast cancer that runs in their family.”

Chris Hansen, an A.C.L.U. staff lawyer, said: “The human genome, like the structure of blood, air or water, was discovered, not created. There is an endless amount of information on genes that begs for further discovery, and gene patents put up unacceptable barriers to the free exchange of ideas.”

I’m curious how Myriad will respond to it.

*This blog post was originally published at ScienceRoll*

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

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How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

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Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

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The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

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Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

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