Author Interviews, Genetic Research, Heart Disease, JACC / 20.09.2016

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Prof. dr. P. van der Harst Interventional Cardiologist Scientific Director Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory University Medical Center Groningen Groningen The Netherlands MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: The electrocardiogram harbors important clues for the development and progression of heart diseases. We studied the voltages of the QRS-complex, a measure of cardiac hypertrophy which is associated with heart failure and various cardiomyopathies. We carried out a genome-wide association study (GWAS) and identified 52 regions in the genome that were associated with one or more QRS characteristics. 32 of these were novel. In these 52 regions we found 67 candidate genes that are might play a role in the adequate function of the human heart and the development of heart disease. (more…)
Author Interviews, BMJ, Genetic Research, Weight Research / 19.09.2016

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Prof. John C. Mathers Director, Human Nutrition Research Centre Institute of Cellular Medicine and Newcastle University Institute for Ageing Newcastle University Biomedical Research Building Campus for Ageing and Vitality Newcastle on Tyne MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? Response: More than 90 different genetics variants are associated with body fatness and, of these, the FTO gene has the biggest effect. People who are homozygous for the unusual variant of FTO i.e. carry two copies of the risk allele, are on average 3kg heavier than those not carrying the risk allele. In addition, they have 70% greater risk of being obese. Since the FTO gene is associated with being heavier, we wondered whether it made it more difficult for people to lose weight. (more…)
Author Interviews, Dermatology, Genetic Research, Race/Ethnic Diversity / 11.09.2016

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Khalaf Kridin, MD Department of Dermatology Rambam Health Care Campus Haifa Israel MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Pemphigus shows an uneven geographic and ethnic distribution. A high incidence of pemphigus was observed in some ethnic groups, namely Ashkenazi Jews and those of Mediterranean origin. This observation has been shown to be strongly related to several HLA-class II genes; HLA-DRB1*04 and HLA-A*10 which have been more frequently found among Ashkenazi Jewish pemphigus patients. We sought to estimate trends in the incidence of pemphigus in northern Israel in the years 2000-2015, in relation to the major ethnic groups who inhabit the same geographic area and exposed to the same environmental elements. The overall estimated incidence of pemphigus in northern Israel was 7.2 per million inhabitants per year (95% CI, 6.2-8.3). The incidence in the Jewish population was 3-fold higher than that in Arabs; 9.6 vs. 3.2 cases per million per year, respectively, p<0.0001), and higher among women than men; 9 vs. 5.3 cases per million per year, respectively, p<0.0001). Patients of Arab ancestry tend to present with the disease at earlier age, in line with observations from Arab and Mediterranean countries. A declining trend in the incidence of pemphigus throughout the last 16 years in northern Israel was observed. (more…)
Asthma, Author Interviews, Genetic Research, Pediatrics / 08.09.2016

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Olga Gorlanova Wissenschaftliche Assistenzärztin Paediatric Pneumology Research Group Universitäts-Kinderspital beider Base MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? Response: Previous research has investigated how childhood asthma and early wheeze can develop as the result of a complex interaction between environmental exposures, such as tobacco exposure, older siblings and an individual’s genetic profile. Genes associated with childhood asthma risk are located on chromosome 17, called 17q21. Our study asked the question: could the effect of 17q21 on respiratory symptoms in infants be modified by breastfeeding? (more…)
Author Interviews, Genetic Research, PLoS, University of Pittsburgh / 31.08.2016

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Seth M. Weinberg, PhD Assistant Professor, Department of Oral Biology Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology Director, CCDG Imaging and Morphometrics Lab MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? Response: Scientists have long recognized that aspects of facial appearance have a genetic basis. This is most obvious when we look at the faces of people in the same family.  It is also well known that mutations in certain genes can result in syndromes where the face is affected.  However, very little is known about how specific genes influence the size and shape of normal human facial features.  To date, only a handful of studies have looked at this question, and while these studies have reported several interesting results, only a small number of genes have so far been linked to normal variation in facial features.  The primary goal of our study was to test for evidence of association between detailed facial measures derived from 3D images and common genetic variants spread across the entire genome.  We also attempted to independently replicate some of the findings from previous studies. (more…)
Author Interviews, Breast Cancer, Genetic Research, Mental Health Research, Ovarian Cancer, Psychological Science / 31.08.2016

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Mag. Dr. Anne Oberguggenberger PhD Medizinische Universität Innsbruck Department für Psychiatrie, Psychotherapie und Psychosomatik Innsbruck Austria MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? Response: Genetic counseling and testing is increasingly integrated in routine clinical care for breast- and ovarian cancer (BOC). Knowledge on follow-up psychosocial outcomes in all different groups of counselees is essential in order to improve follow-up care and counselees’ quality of life. (more…)
Author Interviews, Biomarkers, Cancer Research, Genetic Research, Lancet / 29.08.2016

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Dr. Manel Esteller Director of the Epigenetics and Cancer Biology Program (PEBC) Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Cancer of Unknown Primary (CUP) occurs when the patient is diagnosed with a metastasis but the primary tumor is not found. It accounts for around 5-10% of tumors around the world and the survival is very poor. Until now, only in 25% of cases the primary site was identified after diagnosis pipeline. We are showing herein that the use of epigenetic profiling, based in the determination of the chemical marks occurring in DNA that are tumor-type specific, reaches a diagnoses of 87% of cases. (more…)
Author Interviews, Genetic Research, Neurological Disorders / 26.08.2016

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Lee Henderson, Ph.D. CEO Vybion, Inc. Ithaca, NY 14852Lee Henderson, Ph.D. CEO, Vybion, Inc. Ithaca, NY 14852 MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Huntington’s disease (HD) is a progressive and fatal neurodegenerative disease characterized by loss of both cognitive and motor function as a result of neuron loss primarily within the brain striatum. HD is directly caused by the expansion of CAG repeats in the huntingtin gene resulting in an expanded glutamine region (polyQ) near the N-terminus of the protein. Age of disease onset and the rate of progression is directly correlated to the size of the expansion with pathology observable at 35-70 repeats in adults and greater in juvenile onset. During normal turnover and degradation of the huntingtin protein, the N-terminal polyQ-containing fragments drive pathology and aggregate formation in cells. The direct link to progression has been described by several laboratories using cell-based and animal model studies and confirmed in humans as the binding of these N-terminal fragments to DNA and transcription factors that result in widespread gene dysregulation in neurons. (more…)
Author Interviews, Breast Cancer, Chemotherapy, Genetic Research, JAMA, NEJM / 26.08.2016

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Prof. Laura van ’t Veer, PhD Leader, Breast Oncology Program, and Director, Applied Genomics, UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center Angela and Shu Kai Chan Endowed Chair in Cancer Research UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: MINDACT was designed to involve only patients with node negative and 1 to 3 positive lymph node breast cancer. Node negative breast cancer is a cancer that has not spread to the surrounding lymph nodes and therefore has a lower risk of recurrence. Scientists have also demonstrated that breast cancer which has spread to 1 to 3 lymph nodes may behave like node negative breast cancer. Patients with either node negative cancer or with a cancer that involves 1-3 lymph nodes are often prescribed chemotherapy, although physicians believe that approximately 15% of them do not require such treatment. MINDACT provides the highest level of evidence to show that using MammaPrint® can substantially reduce the use of chemotherapy in patients with node-negative and 1-to-3 node positive breast cancer – in other words, it can identify patients with these types of breast cancer who can safely be spared a treatment that may cause significant side effects, and will offer no to very little benefit. (more…)
Author Interviews, Genetic Research, Heart Disease, Science / 19.08.2016

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Johan LM Björkegren, MD, PhD Professor, Chief Clinical Science Officer Department of Genetics and Genomic Sciences Icahn Institute for Genomics and Multiscale Biology Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai New York MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: The STARNET (Stockholm-Tartu Atherosclerosis Reverse Network Engineering Task) study was launched in 2007 by myself and Dr. Arno Ruusalepp MD, PhD, Chief Cardiac Surgeon at Tartu University Hospital in Estonia, and senior co-author on the study. Unlike similar studies, STARNET obtained samples of several key tissues from 600 clinically well-characterized patients with CAD during coronary artery bypass surgery. By using sophisticated data analysis techniques, the researchers found that the gene expression data from STARNET were highly informative in identifying causal disease genes and their activity in networks not only in CAD but also for other cardiometabolic diseases as well as Alzheimer’s disease. By analyzing gene-expression data from multiple tissues in hundreds of patients with coronary artery disease, we were able to identify disease-causing genes that either were specific to single tissues or acted across multiple tissues in networks to cause cardiometabolic diseases. (more…)
Author Interviews, C. difficile, Genetic Research, Infections / 19.08.2016

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Charles Darkoh, Ph.D., MS., MSc. Assistant Professor University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston School of Public Health Department of Epidemiology, Human Genetics & Environmental Sciences Center for Infectious Diseases Houston, Texas 77030 MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Clostridium difficile (Cdiff) is a multidrug-resistant pathogen that takes over the colon after the good bacteria in the colon have been wiped out by antibiotic therapy. As a result, antibiotic treatment is a major risk factor for C. diff infections. Because of the ability of C. diff to inactivate the majority of the antibiotics currently available, it has become necessary to urgently develop a non-antibiotic therapy for this life-threatening infection. We know that C. diff causes disease by producing toxins, designated toxin A and B. During infection, the toxins are released into the colon resulting in diarrhea and inflammation of the colon as well as other diarrhea-associated illnesses. We also know that C. diff strains that are unable to produce toxins cannot cause disease. Therefore, the toxins are promising targets for a non-antibiotic therapy. We reported last year that C. difficile regulates toxin production using quorum sensing — a system that allows bacteria to coordinate their biological activities as a group. Two sets of quorum-sensing genes (agr1 and agr2) were identified. These genes form part of a signaling communication system that makes a small peptide, which serves as a cue for the infecting bacterial population to turn on their toxin genes. In this study we used genetic analysis to identify which of these two sets of genes is responsible for regulating the toxins. Our results demonstrates that agr1 is the culprit. This is because Cdiff agr1 mutant cannot produce toxins and unable to cause disease in mice, whereas the agr2 mutant can cause disease just like the wild type C.diff. (more…)
Author Interviews, Cancer Research, Esophageal, Genetic Research / 19.08.2016

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Prof. Trevor A Graham, MSc, MRes, PhD Lead, Evolution and Cancer Laboratory Centre for Tumour Biology Barts Cancer Institute, Queen Mary University of London John Vane Science Centre London MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Barrett’s Oesophagus is a common condition that affects an estimated 1.5 million people in the UK alone, although many are undiagnosed . This condition involves normal cells in the oesophagus (food pipe) being replaced by a different, unusual cell type called Barrett’s Oesophagus, and the replacement of the cells is thought to be a consequence of chronic reflux (heartburn). People with Barrett’s have an increased risk of developing oesophageal cancer - a cancer that sadly still has a five year survival of 15% . But although the overall lifetime risk of developing oesophageal cancer in people with Barrett’s is significant (some estimates suggest the risk is comparable to that associated with smoking and lung cancer), the risk for each patient per year is very low. This presents a big problem - most Barrett’s patients will never develop cancer in their lifetime, but the unfortunate few develop an aggressive cancer. Doctors urgently need better tools to distinguish which people with Barrett’s are actually at risk of developing cancer, so that they can receive the best treatment, and everyone else at low risk of cancer can be reassured and not need to endure unnecessary treatment. But because good a way to distinguish high-risk people doesn’t exist, all people with Barrett's have regular (every 3 years or thereabouts) endoscopy; a camera pushed into the oesophagus to look for early signs of cancer. Together with Prof Sheila Krishnadath  and her colleagues at the Amsterdam Medical Centre, Holland, we confirmed that we can identify people at high risk of developing cancer from pre-cancerous condition Barrett’s oesophagus by measuring the genetic diversity of Barrett’s cells. Importantly, we also showed level of genetic diversity amongst a person’s Barrett’s cells essentially being fixed over time – no significant changes in genetic diversity were found during the ~4 years that the patients were followed. This means that whenever someone’s Barrett’s is tested, it looks like their future risk of developing cancer can be predicted regardless of how long it’s been since the abnormal Barrett’s cells began to appear. (more…)
Author Interviews, Colon Cancer, Genetic Research, Journal Clinical Oncology, MD Anderson / 18.08.2016

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Y. Nancy You, MD, MHSc Associate Professor Section of Colorectal Surgery Department of Surgical Oncology Medical Director Familial High-risk Gastrointestinal Cancer Clinic University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Despite the progress in the treatment of many cancers, colorectal cancer (CRC) remains the third most common and lethal cancer in the US. Over 130,000 people are expected to be diagnosed and over 50,000 patients will die from CRC this year. In the recent years, the most exciting development has been our understanding of the molecular complexity of CRC. Currently, four major molecular subtypes of colorectal cancer are recognized. Our study focuses on the Consensus Molecular Subtype 1, which accounts for up to 15% of CRCs, and is characterized by a deficiency in DNA mismatch repair (dMMR), a high level of mutations (i.e. hypermutated), by instability in parts of the genome called microsatellites, and by strong immune activation. Prior to our study, patients with rectal cancer that belong to this molecular subtype have represented an unknown, in terms of their prognosis, and how the tumors respond to current treatments. More importantly, this molecular subtype harbor a genetic condition that can be transmitted within the family called “Lynch Syndrome”. So we designed our study to fill these gaps in our understanding that exist in this subtype of CRCs and to highlight key clinical care issues related to the caring for patients with a genetic syndrome. The main findings are that rectal cancers belonging to this molecular subtype have favorable prognosis, respond well to standard chemoradiation, and are linked to Lynch Syndrome and should be treated at centers with expertise in hereditary cancer syndromes. (more…)
Aging, Author Interviews, Genetic Research, UCLA / 17.08.2016

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Michael Gurven, Professor Department of Anthropology University of California Santa Barbara, CA 93106 MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? Response: Understanding the sources of ethnic and sex disparities in health and longevity is critical in order to insure the health and well-being of everyone. We often hear about disparities due to differences in health care access, education, income, and sometimes genetic differences. But what we've done here is to employ a new biomarker developed by Steve Horvath, called the "epigenetic clock", which measures the cumulative changes to the epigenome, i.e. alterations to DNA that affects gene activity and expression but do not alter the DNA itself. This new measure is arguably one of the best biomarkers of aging out there today - so it's indeed a biological measure, but tells a different story than conventional genetic differences. Instead epigenetic age is influenced by the lived experience, physical and social environment, and genetic make-up of individuals. (more…)
Author Interviews, Genetic Research, JAMA, OBGYNE / 17.08.2016

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Gabriel Lazarin MS Vice President,Counsyl Medical Science Liaisons MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: The study finds there is a significant opportunity to identify more pregnancies affected by serious conditions, across all ethnicities, through the clinical use of expanded carrier screening (ECS). We found that compared to current prenatal genetic testing guidelines, expanded carrier screening for 94 genetically inherited conditions better addresses the risk of having a pregnancy affected with a serious condition. Certain physicians have been offering ECS since 2010. However, in order for it to come into routine use, a group of major medical organizations last year stated a need for further data regarding the frequency of previously unscreened genetic variants. This study uses real test results from approximately 350,000 people to provide that data. (more…)
Author Interviews, Autism, Genetic Research, NIH / 16.08.2016

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Karen Usdin, Ph. D. Senior Investigator Chief, Gene Structure and Disease Section Laboratory of Cell and Molecular Biology National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive and Kidney Diseases National Institutes of Health Bethesda MD 20892 MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Our laboratory is interested in the causes and consequences of the unusual repeat expansion mutation that causes the Fragile X-related disorders. However these disorders are challenging to study, in part because the repeat tract is difficult to amplify by PCR. This makes monitoring of repeat length, as well as other factors we are interested in such as methylation status and the presence of AGG interruptions, quite difficult. In our experience, both repeat number and methylation status are very variable in patient stem cells and in disease-relevant cell types derived from them. This variability arises because the repeat is prone to both expansion and contraction and because at different times there can be selection for smaller alleles or against unmethylated ones. Thus the frequent monitoring of repeat length and methylation status is critical for work with patient cells, particularly when those cells are to be used for drug screening or to examine the consequences of expansion. While other assays are available to determine one or more of these parameters, some are cumbersome to use or lack the necessary robustness and sensitivity, whilst others are prohibitively expensive for routine laboratory work. We thus saw a need for assays that are robust, sensitive and cost-effective for preclinical studies. (more…)
Author Interviews, Cleveland Clinic, Genetic Research, Heart Disease, PLoS / 14.08.2016

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Qing Kenneth Wang PhD, MBA Huazhong University of Science and Technology Wuhan, P. R. China and Department of Molecular Cardiology The Cleveland Clinic Cleveland, Ohio MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Coronary Artery Disease (CAD) and its complication myocardial infarction (MI or so called heart attacks) are the most common causes of deaths in the US and other parts of the world. Based on the American Heart Association statistics, 620,000 Americans have a new MI each year in the United States alone, 295 000 have a recurrent MI, and nearly 400,000 of them will die from it suddenly. Moreover, an estimated 150,000 silent first MI occur each year. CAD and MI are caused by an occlusion or blockage of a coronary artery, which disrupts blood flow to the heart region, leading to damage or death of cardiac cells, impairment of cardiac function and sudden death. Current treatment of CAD and MI relies on reperfusion therapy with reopening of the occluded coronary artery with percutaneous coronary intervention (PCA) and coronary artery bypass surgery (CABG). However, 12% of patients are not candidates for PCA or CABG due to an unfavorable occlusive pattern, diffuse coronary atherosclerosis, small distant vessels and co-morbidities. An alternative revascularization strategy has to be developed to benefit these patients. (more…)
Author Interviews, Genetic Research, JAMA, Melanoma / 11.08.2016

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Ulrich Pfeffer, PhD Laboratory of Molecular Pathology Istituto di Ricovero e Cura a Carattere Scientifico Azienda Ospedaliera Universitaria San Martino–IST Istituto Nazionale per la Ricerca sul Cancro, Genova, Italy MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: The melanoma of the eye or uveal melanoma is well controlled by radiotherapy or surgery but very aggressively growing metastases often develop and therapy has only marginally improved in decades. On the other hand, uveal melanoma is probably the best studied cancer in absolute: we know its development in great detail and we can make very precise prognosis. An important piece of information that is lacking is the effect of a chromosomal alteration, amplification of a part of chromosome 6, that is often encountered in a subset of uveal melanomas that show features of bad prognosis but actually perform better. Many have guessed that the immune system or more generally, inflammation might protect uveal melanomas with this alteration from progression to metastasis. Therefore we have set out to analyze a candidate gene, the putative immunomodulatory BTNL2, that is located on chromosome 6. We found highly variable expression of this gene in uveal melanoma samples where it is expressed by tumor cells and by infiltrating immune cells. The type of infiltrate is strongly associated with the risk to develop metastases. We also analyzed genetic variants of BTNL2 in 209 patients but we could not find a significant association with uveal melanoma risk. (more…)
Author Interviews, Biomarkers, Genetic Research, Leukemia, Personalized Medicine / 05.08.2016

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Dr Laura Eadie PhD Post Doctoral Researcher Affiliate Lecturer Discipline of Medicine University of Adelaide Summary: Researchers based at SAHMRI (South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute) in Adelaide, South Australia have recently demonstrated the significance of early increases in the expression of ABCB1 in predicting long-term response to imatinib therapy. Lead researcher, Dr Laura Eadie, has recently had these findings published in the journal Leukemia and says that she hopes “the evidence provided by the study could be used to inform better patient treatment in the future”. MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: ABCB1 (p-glycoprotein) is a membrane transporter known to be involved in the efflux of the tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) that are used to treat chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML). Overexpression of ABCB1 has also been demonstrated to cause resistance to the TKIs imatinib, nilotinib and dasatinib in vitro. Although studied previously in CML patients, the predictive value of ABCB1 in determining a patient’s long-term response to imatinib had not been realized ... until now. Previous studies investigating ABCB1 as a predictive biomarker focused on expression levels of ABCB1 at one time point in isolation. For our study, we have measured the levels of ABCB1 at two separate time points specified in the TIDEL II trial protocol: day 1 (prior to the start of imatinib therapy) and day 22 (three weeks on imatinib). We then calculated the fold rise in ABCB1 expression levels at day 22 compared with day 1 and grouped patients about the median into high and low fold rise. When we compared molecular outcomes for patients within these two ABCB1 expression groups we noticed a striking difference in outcome to imatinib therapy. (more…)
Author Interviews, Genetic Research, Prostate Cancer, Race/Ethnic Diversity, Vitamin D / 02.08.2016

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Gerard (Gary) Hardiman, Ph.D Professor, Department of Medicine Professor Department of Public Health Sciences Bioinformatics Director Center for Genomic Medicine Medical University of South Carolina Charleston, SC 29425 MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: There are significant racial disparities in prostate cancer outcomes. The disease disproportionately affects African American men in terms of incidence, morbidity, and mortality, even after adjustment for stage. African American men have a 2- to 3-times increased risk of developing prostate cancer and have a greater mortality rate compared to European American men. We carried out a prospective clinical study aimed at examining the effects of vitamin D3 supplementation at 4,000 IU per day for two months in male subjects who selected surgical removal of the prostate (prostatectomy) as a definitive treatment for their prostate cancer. The primary goal of this study was to examine molecular differences in gene expression patterns relevant to prostate cancer disparities between African American and European American men, and investigate the global effects of vitamin D3 supplementation on the prostate transcriptome. We carried out genome wide expression profiling experiments using high throughput (HT) RNA sequencing. Transcriptional profiles of each of the patient’s tissue samples were generated and systems level analyses were performed. (more…)
Author Interviews, Gastrointestinal Disease, Genetic Research, JAMA / 29.07.2016

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Amitabh Chak, MD University Hospitals Case Medical Ctr Cleveland, OH, 44106 MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: About 20 years ago we discovered that Barrett's esophagus and esophageal cancer aggregate in a small proportion of families suggesting there might be a genetic basis to these complex diseases. As we started looking at these families, we identified a rare family with multiple members who had Barrett's esophagus and multiple members who had passed away from esophageal cancer at a young age. Advances in exome sequencing have now allowed us to identify a mutation in a gene whose function is not known that predisposes this family to develop Barrett's esophagus. Functional studies suggest that this gene, VSIG10L, is involved in maturation of normal squamous esophagus. (more…)
Author Interviews, Cancer Research, Genetic Research, Lancet, Lymphoma / 29.07.2016

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Jin-Xin BEI, Ph.D. Principal Investigator State Key Laboratory of Oncology in South China Sun Yat-sen University Cancer Center Guangzhou China MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? Response: Natural killer T-cell lymphoma (NKTCL) is a rare and aggressive malignancy with remarkable prevalence in Asian and Latin populations, suggesting that the heritable components contribute to the disease risk. Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) infection has been thought to be major factor associated with NKTCL, and EBV DNA load in plasma has been applied in clinical managements, including diagnosis, treatment response and prognosis. However, the genetic component leading to NKTCL predisposition has not been identified. (more…)
Aging, Author Interviews, Gender Differences, Genetic Research, Menopause, UCLA / 28.07.2016

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Morgan Elyse Levine, PhD Postdoctoral Fellow Department of Human Genetics University of California, Los Angeles MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: From an evolutionary perspective, aging and reproduction are two processes that are linked. For instance, in order to maximize fitness, an individual has to survive and remain healthy enough to: 1) reproduce and 2) insure offspring survive to reproductive age. Thus, the rate of aging is tied to a species’ timing of reproductive senescence and necessary length of parental involvement. There is also evidence that among humans, women with longer reproductive stages (later age at menopause, ability to conceive at older ages) are more likely to live to age 100, which we hypothesize is because they age slower. Using an epigenetic biomarker believed to capture biological aging (previously developed by the Principle Investigator of this study, Steve Horvath), we tested whether age at menopause, surgical menopause, and use of menopausal hormone therapies were associated with a woman’s aging rate. We found that the blood of women who experienced menopause at earlier ages (especially those who underwent surgical menopause) was “older” than expected, suggesting they were aging faster on a biological level than women who experienced menopause at later ages. We also found that buccal epithelium samples (cells that line the inside of the cheek) were epigenetically younger than expected (signifying slower aging) for post-menopausal women who had taken menopausal hormone therapy, compared to post-menopausal women who had never taken any form of menopausal hormone therapy. Finally, we had a number of results that suggested that the previously mentioned findings were a result of the process of menopause directly speeding up the aging process—rather than the alternative explanation, which would have been that women who aged faster experience menopause earlier. (more…)
Author Interviews, Environmental Risks, Genetic Research, Nature / 27.07.2016

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Dalton Conley PhD Department of Sociology Princeton University Princeton, NJ 08644 MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: An increasing number of nationally representative social science surveys are now genotyping respondents. The Health and Retirement Study, which follows a representative group of Americans 50 and older since 1992, genotyped its subjects in 2006 and 2010. The range of birth cohorts allowed us to see if genetic effects increased or decreased across the middle half of the twentieth century for a number of outcomes. We found that for height and weight, genetics increased in importance, but for heart disease and education, genes became less important. (more…)
Author Interviews, Genetic Research, Imperial College, Nutrition / 26.07.2016

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Prof. Majid Ezzati, PhD Faculty of Medicine, School of Public Health Chair in Global Environmental Health Imperial College, London Adjunct Professor of Global Health and Department of Global Health and Population Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Human height is strongly influenced by the environment that we grow up in, from pregnancy through to late adolescence. If we have good nutrition, few illnesses and good healthcare, we are more likely to grow taller. In turn, height has a strong effect on our health in adulthood. Taller people on average live longer, have lower risk of heart disease (although they do have slightly elevated risks of some cancers). We have collated the largest-ever database of height. We analysed 1472 studies with measured height on 18.6 million individuals. We made estimates of height for 18-year-old men and women from 1914 and 2014. Height has increased in every country in the world, but this has been very uneven. The tallest men in the world are now the Dutch, and the tallest women are the Latvians. The countries that have seen the most growth are South Korea for women and Iran for men. We have seen large increases in height in East Asia, and stagnation in much of the West over the last few decades. In parts of Africa height has actually decreased by 5-10 cm over this period. (more…)
Author Interviews, Genetic Research, JAMA, Pediatrics, Surgical Research / 26.07.2016

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Dr. Katherine Nelson MD Staff Paediatrician with the Paediatric Advanced Care Team at SickKids and PhD student University of Toronto MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? Response: Trisomy 13 and 18 are rare genetic conditions that cause problems in multiple organ systems, including heart defects and severe neurologic impairment.  A majority of children with trisomy 13 and 18 die in the first days to weeks after birth, though a small number survive beyond one year.  For years, health care providers have debated the effectiveness and ethics of surgical interventions in these populations. (more…)
Author Interviews, Endocrinology, Genetic Research, NEJM, Weight Research / 21.07.2016

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Dr. Peter Kühnen MD Institute for Experimental Pediatric Endocrinology Charité–Universitätsmedizin Berlin Berlin, Germany MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Kühnen: The patients, which were included in this study, are suffering from a genetic defect in a gene called POMC. This gene is cleaved into different hormones as e.g. MSH (melanocyte stimulating hormone). MSH is very important for the regulation of satiety by activation of the MC-4 receptor. For this reason these patients are persistent hyperphagic due to the lack of MSH and they gain weight very fast in the first months of their life. Setmelanotide activates the MC-4 receptor, which is important for the activation of satiety. By restoring the lost function Setmelanotide leads to a reduction of hyperphagia and to a reduction of body weight in this POMC deficient patients. (more…)
Author Interviews, Genetic Research, Melanoma / 19.07.2016

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Adam Berger, MD, FACS Vice Chair for Clinical Research Thomas Jefferson University Hospital Philadelphia , PA MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?  Dr. Berger: Perhaps the most important point for consideration in the adoption of a new diagnostic test is: “Will this test impact patient management decisions for the patient that is sitting in front of me?” If the answer is no, then I would not order the test. If this answer is yes, the next question is how does it alter or impact patient management. The DecisionDx-Melanoma test is a 31-gene expression profile test that has been shown to accurately separate or stratify patients with cutaneous melanoma identified to be at high risk of metastasis (“Class 2” test result) from those who are at an extremely low risk of disease progression (“Class 1” test result). In two peer-reviewed publications from 2015 and three studies presented between April and June of this year, the DecisionDx-Melanoma test showed a Negative Predictive Value of 98% or 99% for death from melanoma or disease free-survival in patients with Stage I and II melanoma. (more…)
Author Interviews, Genetic Research, Microbiome, Rheumatology / 15.07.2016

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Veena Taneja, Ph.D Immunologist Mayo Clinic Rochester MN MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Gut bacteria have been suggested to be involved in pathogenesis of rheumatoid arthritis. We used new technology to sequence the bacteria in patients with rheumatoid arthritis and first degree relatives and healthy individuals. We found that patients had lower diversity of bacteria than healthy individuals and the composition of the gut microbiota differed between patients and healthy people. We could identify some bacteria that have expanded in patients though those are generally observed with low numbers in healthy individuals. We could define certain metabolic signatures that associated with microbial profile. For the first time, we could show a direct link between the arthritis-associated bacteria we identified and enhancement of arthritis using a mice carrying the RA-susceptible HLA gene. (more…)
Author Interviews, Genetic Research, Opiods, Pain Research, Thromboembolism / 14.07.2016

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Brian Meshkin Founder and CEO of Proove Biosciences Editor’s note: Proove Biosciences, Inc introduced three new evidence-based tests to support better clinical decision-making for difficult-to-treat conditions that are influenced by genetics. These conditions include substance abuse, fibromyalgia and venous thromboembolism. The tests are especially relevant in light of the House of Representatives passing the Comprehensive Addiction Recovery Act (CARA) bill on July 8, 2016 to combat the opioid epidemic. MedicalResearch.com: Would you update our readers on the significance and implications of the CARA Act? What is the role of genetics in addiction? What is the background for the Proove Addiction™ Profile? How does it aid in addiction management? Response: CARA is a national piece of legislation to expand access to treatment for drug overdoses and addiction. It also includes some other provisions meant to help address the opioid epidemic. However, there are some serious implications. First, it does not contain any funding, so it is a bit of a “Potemkin Village”. It is also a bit of a façade because it does not address 50% of the equation. According to the definition of addiction from the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) and the National Institutes of Drug Abuse (NIDA), about half of substance abuse is due to genetic factors. If you are studying for a test and ignoring half of the material, chances are you are not going to do well on the test. As doctors are confronted with the challenges of objectively assessing pain and knowing which patients are at risk for abuse, they must consider genetics. The Proove Opioid Risk test combines genetic markers and phenotypic variables into an algorithm to effectively identify patients at low, moderate and high risk for opioid abuse. By knowing this information, a physician can make better decisions about opioids. For low risk patients, a physician can safely prescribe and a patient does not need to fear the opioid prescription they are given – as this is about 50% of the population. For those at moderate risk, a physician can use a greater level of vigilance to monitor those patients with abuse-deterrent formulations, regular urine drug screens, opioid contracts, and other tools to monitor their use. For the small number of patients – less than 10% - that are at high risk, a physician can use alternative forms of pain relief such as interventional procedures or non-opioid analgesics to provide the needed relief to patients. The Proove Addiction Profile builds on this commitment, by providing genetic data points related to other disorders, such as addictions to alcohol, heroin, cocaine and others. Unfortunately, many patients who screen positive for aberrant behavior, such as having an illicit drug in their urine, are often discharged from care by their doctor. This just gets them lost in the system. By running the Proove Addiction Profile in addition to a urine drug screen, a doctor can better understand the genetic factors associated with the aberrant behavior and refer the troubled patient to an addiction specialist for treatment. (more…)