Genetic Variants Help Identify Men At Highest Risk of Prostate Cancer

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Fredrick R. Schumacher, PhD, MPH. Associate Professor, Department of Population & Quantitative Health Sciences Case Western Reserve University Cleveland

Dr. Schumacher

Fredrick R. Schumacher, PhD, MPH.
Associate Professor, Department of Population & Quantitative Health Sciences
Case Western Reserve University
Cleveland

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? 

Response: Our study examines the genetic underpinnings of prostate cancer initiation using technology to test variants across the genome. Our study focused on men of European ancestry and included over 80,000 men with prostate cancer and 60,000 men without disease. We discovered 63 novel genetic variants associated with prostate cancer risk, which increases our knowledge of prostate cancer genetic risk factors by more than 60%.

A genetic risk score created from the combination of 163 new and known prostate cancer risk variants revealed men with the highest genetic risk score are nearly seven times more likely to develop disease compared to the average man. Additionally, men with the lowest genetic risk score have a 85% risk reduction of developing prostate cancer compared to the average. Lastly, these new discoveries uncover several biological mechanisms involved in the initiation of prostate cancer.

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Protein Functions of DISC1 Gene Linked to Schizophrenia Identified

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Marcelo Pablo Coba PhD
Assistant Professor of Psychiatry
Zilkha Neurogenetic Institute
Keck School of Medicine of USC

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Psychiatric diseases such as schizophrenia (SCZ) are complex brain disorders where a multitude or risk factors have been implicated in contributing to the disease, with a low number of genes that have been strongly implicated in a very low number of cases.

One of these genes is Disrupted in schizophrenia 1 (DISC1), which was first described in 2000 as a balanced translocation that segregates with schizophrenia and related psychiatric disorders in a large Scottish family. Because DISC1 does not have an identified protein function such as enzymatic, channel, transporter, etc… the field moved to try to understand what proteins are associated (physically connected) to DISC1 and to try to explain DISC1 function through the function of its protein interactors. This means that if DISC1 binds proteins X, Y and Z, then mutations in the DISC1 gene should affect the functions of   these proteins. Therefore, there has been much effort in trying to identify DISC1 protein interactors. However this task has not been straightforward.

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Genes Linked To Large Brains in Humans Identified

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
“The human Brain” by Kristian Mollenborg is licensed under CC BY 2.0David Haussler PhD

Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute
Distinguished Professor, Biomolecular Engineering
Scientific Director, UC Santa Cruz Genomics Institute
Scientific Co-Director, California Institute for Quantitative Biosciences  and

Sofie Salama, PhD
Research Scientist in BIomolecular Engineering
Howard Hughes Medical Institute Senior Scientist

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Dr. Haussler:  Researchers specializing in this area are interested understanding which evolutionary changes in our genome underlie human-specific brain features including our large (3X greater than chimpanzee) brain.

It has been my personal dream to peer into human evolution at the level of individual genes and gene functions.  Continue reading

RNA-Editing Tool Corrects Collagen Deficit in Severe Blistering Disorder

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
http://www.proqr.com/team-and-boards/Daniel de Boer
Founding Chief Executive Officer
ProQR

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? Would you briefly explain what is meant by dystrophic epidermolysis bullosa?

Response: Dystrophic epidermolysis bullosa (DEB) is caused by a mutation in the COL7A1 gene which is responsible for the formation of a protein called type VII collagen (C7). This protein helps bind the inner and outer layers of the skin together. Mutations in one part of COL7A1 gene, exon 73, are the most common cause of DEB resulting in a non-functional C7 protein. ProQR’s QR-313 is designed to skip exon 73 of the COL7A1 gene, leading to a shortened C7 protein called C7Δ73. The current studies are intended to determine whether C7Δ73 functions the same as normal C7 protein. This mechanism can hopefully restore normal skin function for DEB patients.

DEB is a rare genetic skin disease characterized by easy blistering of the skin, poorly healing wounds and skin infections. DEB is present at birth and in severe cases leads to skin cancer, which can significantly reduce a patient’s lifespan. There are currently no treatments for DEB that target the underlying cause of the disease. The current standard of care consists of expensive time-consuming wound care, antibiotics to prevent infection and pain medications. As a result, this disease presents a huge burden to the patients themselves, as well as people who help with daily care.

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If Maternal Grandmother is Obese, So is Grandchild?

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
“Great Grandmother” by David Amsler is licensed under CC BY 2.0Rebecca Somerville MB BCh BAO, BMedSci, MRCPI, MPH, PhD
School of Public Health, Physiotherapy and Sports Science
University College Dublin
Dublin, Ireland 

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? 

Response: Rates of obesity in the Western world have increased dramatically over recent decades. The negative health consequences of obesity are well known and significant amounts of research have been conducted into the causes and possible solutions. While it is clear that there have been massive changes in diet and physical activity at a societal level that are primarily responsible for this ‘obesity epidemic’, it is less clear the extent to which obesity, once established, or risk factors for same, can be perpetuated down generations. Family studies lend opportunity to explore these questions, however there are few world wide which incorporate 3 generations.

We therefore sought to examine patterns of central adiposity, as measured by waist circumference, between grandparents and their grandchildren, separately in maternal and paternal lines. We were able to utilize prospectively collected data from the Lifeways Cross-Generation Cohort Study. This is a longitudinal birth cohort, established in Ireland in 2001, involving up to 7 members of the same family (mother, father, child and 4 grandparents). In the 589 families where a child had a waist circumference measurement we found that, at the age of both 5 and 9, there was a direct relationship between the waist circumference of the maternal grandmother and her grandchild (both male and female). This remained after adjustment for a wide range of confounding variables including mother’s waist circumference. There was no relationship seen with any of the other grandparents.

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ADHD More Common in Grandchildren of Women Who Used DES During Pregnancy

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Marianthi-Anna Kioumourtzoglou ScD Assistant Professor Environmental Health Sciences Mailman School of Public Health Columbia University 

MarianthiAnna Kioumourtzoglou ScD
Assistant Professor
Environmental Health Sciences
Mailman School of Public Health
Columbia University 

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: The prevalence of neurodevelopmental disorders, like attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) has been increasing. One of the hypothesized risk factors for increased risk for neurodevelopmental disorders is a class of chemicals known as endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs). These chemicals are known to interfere with the endocrine system, i.e. the system that uses hormones to control and coordinate metabolism, reproduction and development. Several high production volume chemicals, ubiquitously present in commercial products, are known or suspected endocrine disruptors. Because of their widespread use in consumer products, the population-wide exposure to known and suspected EDCs is very high.

Recently, there has been increased attention in the potential effects of EDCs on neurodevelopment that span multiple generations. Animal studies have provided evidence that exposure to EDCs, such as phthalates and bisphenol A (BPA), alter the behavior and social interactions in mice in three to five generations after exposure. However, evidence of such multi-generational impacts of EDC exposure on neurodevelopment in humans is unavailable, likely because of the lack of detailed information on exposures and outcomes across generations.

For this study we leveraged information from a nationwide cohort, the Nurses’ Health Study II (NHSII), to investigate the potential link between exposure to diethylstilbestrol (DES) and third generation ADHD, i.e. ADHD among the grandchildren of the women who used DES while pregnant. DES is a very potent endocrine disruptor that was prescribed between 1938 and 1971 to pregnant women thought to prevent pregnancy complications. In the United States, between 5 and 10 million women are estimated to have used DES, although the exact number is not known. DES was banned in 1971, when was linked to vaginal adenocarcinomas (a rare cancer of the reproductive system) in the daughters of the women who had used it during pregnancy. Since then, DES has been also linked to multiple other reproductive outcomes in DES daughters, as well as with some reproductive outcomes in the grandchildren of the women who used it, such as hypospadias and delated menstrual regularization. However, to our knowledge, no study to date has evaluated the association between DES, or any other EDC, and multigenerational neurodevelopment. Continue reading

Genetic Factors Control Heart Rate in Response to Exercise

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Professor Patricia Munroe PhD Professor of Molecular Medicine William Harvey Research Institute Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry Queen Mary University of London

Prof. Munroe

Prof. Patricia Munroe PhD
Professor of Molecular Medicine
William Harvey Research Institute
Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry
Queen Mary University of London

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: Over the years, it has become increasingly evident that impaired capacity to increase heart rate during exercise and reduce heart rate following exercise are important predictors of all-cause and cardiovascular mortality. A person’s capability to regulate their heart rate is the result of complex interactions of biological systems, including the autonomic nervous and hormonal systems. Prior work has demonstrated that genetic factors significantly contribute to variations in resting heart rate among different individuals, but less was known about the genetic factors modulating the response of heart rate to exercise and recovery.

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LPA Gene Variants Linked To Cardiac Events Despite Statins

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Wei-Qi Wei, MD, PhD Assistant Professor Department of Biomedical Informatics Vanderbilt University Nashville, TN 37203

Dr. Wei-Qi Wei

Wei-Qi Wei, MD, PhD
Assistant Professor
Department of Biomedical Informatics
Vanderbilt University
Nashville, TN 37203

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: The study was motived by the clinical observation that some patients develop coronary heart disease events despite taking statins, one of our most effective drugs to reduce cardiovascular risk. We collected data within the eMERGE network of people taking statins and monitored them for development of coronary heart disease events over time.  We  conducted a genome-wide association study of those with events compared to those without events.

Our results showed that single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) on the LPA gene were associated with a significantly increased risk of coronary heart disease events. Individuals with the variant were 50% more likely to have an event. More importantly, even among patients who achieved ideal on-treatment LDL cholesterol levels (<70 mg/dL), the association remained statistically significant.

We then did a phenome-wide association study to see if other diseases or conditions were associated with these LPAvariants. The major associated conditions were all cardiovascular. This sort of study can highlight potential other indications for a drug targeting this pathway and suggest potential adverse events that might be experienced from targeting this pathway. Clearly, more and larger studies will be needed to truly understand the potential risks and benefits of a future drug targeting this pathway.  Continue reading

Functional Brain ‘Fingerprint’ Identified in Schizophrenia

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Tobias Kaufmann UiO Institute of Clinical Medicine

Dr. Kaufmann

Tobias Kaufmann PhD
Norwegian Centre for Mental Disorders Research (NORMENT), KG Jebsen Centre for Psychosis Research, Division of Mental Health and Addiction, Oslo University Hospital & Institute of Clinical Medicine
University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Over the past years, a lot of work has pointed toward impaired brain networks in schizophrenia. With this work we assessed brain network stability across different loads of a cognitive task using functional magnetic resonance imaging of the brain.

Based on our earlier work on adolescents with pre-clinical signs of mental illness who showed decreased stability of networks across different tasks and conditions, we hypothesized that brain networks in adults with schizophrenia show similar properties of decreased stability. Our results confirmed this hypothesis. Stability was reduced in several large-scale brain networks across the sampled age range from early adulthood to the sixties. Further, network stability was associated with polygenic risk for schizophrenia as well as cognitive task performance.

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Benefits and Complexities of More Breast Cancer Genes to Screen For

Dr-Allison W. Kurian

Dr. Kurian

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Allison W. Kurian, M.D., M.Sc.

Associate Professor of Medicine (Oncology) and of Health Research and Policy
Director, Women’s Clinical Cancer Genetics Program
Stanford University School of Medicine
Stanford, CA 94305-5405 

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Changes in genetic sequencing technology and regulation have allowed much cheaper testing of many more genes in recent years. We investigated how these changes have affected hereditary cancer risk evaluation in women newly diagnosed with breast cancer.

The main findings are that more comprehensive multiple-gene sequencing tests have rapidly replaced more limited tests of two genes (BRCA1 and BRCA2) only. This has helped patients by doubling the chance of finding an important gene mutation that can change their treatment options.

However, there are important gaps in how this new, more comprehensive sequencing is used: more testing delays and more uncertain results, particularly among racial/ethnic minority women.  Continue reading