New edition coming in September 2014!!!


The Forever Fix gang: Corey Haas with book, surrounded by mom Nancy and dad Ethan Haas, Ricki Lewis on left next to Lori and Hannah Sames. At book signing 3/24/12, Barnes + Noble, Albany NY.

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Glenn Nichols, surrounded by his hospice team. The author is in yellow.

Genetic Linkage

How Ebola Kills

August 17, 2014

Tags: Ebola, Liberia, virus, epidemiology, Monrovia

Emmanuel Gokpolu is my African "son," living in the midst of the Ebola crisis in Monrovia, Liberia.
(An updated version of this post appears at my Public Library of Science blog DNA Science.)


“That’s not Ebola!” I said to the vendor standing beside a display of boxer shorts festooned with pathogens, at a National Association of Biology Teachers conference a few years ago.

“No, that’s Ebola. Read the tag.”

“The tag’s wrong. It’s influenza. See the spokes on the surface? Ebola looks like a long soup ladle.”

He didn’t believe me, but the website was corrected a few months later. I still have my faux Ebola shorts somewhere.

JUST 7 GENES
The stark seeming-simplicity of the Ebola virus flashes across my mind whenever I get email from Emmanuel, a medical student in Liberia. My husband and I have been supporting his education since he contacted me in 2007 after reading Human Genetics: Concepts and Applications, my textbook very soon to be published in its 11th edition. The story of our relationship, today between two families, is here, but since then Eman has become a father, naming his son after my husband Larry.

Eman is our son in the African sense, not based on DNA. Escalating panic pervades his emails of the past few days. Right now he has a high fever, headache, and diarrhea, but says it is "only typhoid, not to worry."

The electronic communication with our Liberian friend is odd in the face of the crumbling infrastructure, the abandoned hospitals and schools. He taps on a phone, too terrified to enter an Internet cafe. And I’m mortified that the NBC nightly news placed a lengthy NASCAR crash report before an Ebola update. Eman wants to know why the US didn’t pay attention until the arrival here of two white, American patients. So do I. (more…)

Imprisoned Gene Therapy Pioneer, French Anderson, Launches Website

January 28, 2014

Tags: gene therapy, William French Anderson, NIH, Friends of French Anderson

William French Anderson, MD
In September 1990, William French Anderson, MD, posed with 4-year-old Ashi DeSilva at the NIH clinical center. Days earlier, she’d become the first recipient of gene therapy, a biotechnology that Dr. Anderson and others had been thinking about since Watson and Crick published the structure of DNA in 1953.

On July 29, 2004, Dr. Anderson, then 67, was arrested at his home in San Marino, California, and charged with molesting the daughter of a co-worker. The “inappropriate touching and medical exams” allegedly happened from 1997 to 2001, starting when the girl was ten. He has always maintained his innocence.

Dr. Anderson was tried in June 2006, convicted the next month, and sentenced to 14 years in prison on February 3, 2007. More than 200 scientists, many quite prominent, formed "Friends of French Anderson" and sent detailed letters to the court vouching for his character. But despite appeals, he has been in prison all this time.

Out of options, Dr. Anderson has just unveiled a website, www.wfrenchanderson.org that includes forensic evidence in his defense and other documents. He’s asked me to spread the word. I won’t discuss the evidence or legal details, at least not yet, but I wanted to relate how I came to learn about the case. (more…)

Spring 2014 Talks on "The Forever Fix" and Gene Therapy

August 23, 2013

Tags: gene therapy

After a whirlwind of speaking at teachers' conferences this fall, in the springtime my audience will be high school students. I will be giving 4 keynote addresses for the New York State Student Convocation, for the March of Dimes. The talk is "Gene Therapy: A Forever Fix," which will coincide with a feature article I've written for Scientific American (print), March issue. The talk is based on my book, The Forever Fix: Gene Therapy and the Boy Who Saved It."

The paperback version has an Instructor's Guide at the end, which is also posted on this website, beneath a handout for a classroom activity I've developed called "Putting a Face on Genetics."

Also check out my series on a clinic for genetic diseases among the Amish and Mennonites at my DNA Science blog at Public Library of Science (http://blogs.plos.org/dnascience/)

The March of Dimes talks will be held at:

Hyde Park March 18
NYU March 26
Syracuse April 2
Staten Island April 24

I will post more details as I get them, or feel free to email me (rickilewis54@gmail.com)


St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital
Memphis, June 2014



My blog is "DNA Science" at Public Library of Science

August 7, 2013

Tags: DNA Science, Ricki Lewis, Public Library of Science, blog

The text you type here will appear directly below the image
Hi everyone! Since last fall I've been blogging for Public Library of Science , at http://blogs.plos.org/dnascience/.

As you can see, I gave up cross-posting here on July 4 because through this site (Author's Guild) I have to type in all the html code, whereas PLOS uses an easy wordpress template. I got lazy. But not about blogging! So check out DNA Science at Public Library of Science. A new post every week, and I'm open to ideas and guest bloggers.

I always try to write about what everyone else misses.

Join me!

When a Disease is Genetic but not Inherited: Bea Rienhoff's Story

July 4, 2013

Tags: exome sequencing, mutation, textbook, human genetics

Hugh and Bea Rienhoff (credit: Leah Fasten)
Genetics is the study of genes, DNA, and variation; heredity is the passing of inherited traits from parents to offspring. Families with one member, typically a child, who has a collection of unusual symptoms that don’t fit any clinical diagnosis may in fact have a genetic disease – but one that arose spontaneously in the child, rather than having been inherited from carrier parents.

Exome sequencing is helping to solve these genetics-but-not-heredity mysteries. The story of one little girl and her father’s efforts to find her mutant gene, and how the tale wove in and out and now back into my human genetics textbook, illustrates the evolution of personalized genomic medicine.

THE BEA PROJECT
When Hugh Rienhoff first saw his daughter Bea, born in December 2003, he knew something was wrong. Her long feet, clenched fingers, poor muscle tone, widely-spaced hazel eyes, and a facial birthmark might have been just peculiarities to anyone who wasn’t also a physician and a geneticist. (more…)

Supreme Court BRCA Decision: Use Correct Terminology!

June 14, 2013

Tags: Supreme Court, BRCA1, BRCA2, gene patents, DNA, composite DNA

(credit: Dept of Energy)
Earlier today, my “in” box began to fill with info from everyone I’ve ever met letting me know that the Supreme Court had ruled on the Myriad case about patenting the breast cancer genes BRCA1 and BRCA2. I also received a dozen pitches from PR people offering me all manner of instant interviews with lawyers, doctors, bioethicists, and health care analysts.

No one offered me an interview with a geneticist – a person who knows something about DNA. So being such a person myself, I decided to take a look at the decision. And I found an error right smack in the opening paragraph: (more…)

Juvenile Huntington's Disease: The Cruel Mutation

June 3, 2013

Tags: Huntington's disease, rare disease, Woody Guthrie, CHDI, HDSA, genetics, triplet repeat mutation

Jane and Karli Mervar
Looking back, signs that Jane Mervar’s husband, Karl, had Huntington’s Disease (HD) started about when their youngest daughter, Karli, began to have trouble paying attention in school. Karl had become abusive, paranoid, and unemployable due to his drunken appearance. The little girl, born in September 1996, was hyperactive and had difficulty following directions. When by age 5 Karli’s left side occasionally stiffened and her movements slowed, Jane began the diagnostic journey that would end with Karli’s diagnosis of HD, which had affected the little girl’s paternal grandmother.

Soon Karli could no longer skip, hop, or jump. And new troubles emerged. (more…)

A Little Girl with Giant Axons, a Deranged Cytoskeleton, and Someday Gene Therapy

May 16, 2013

Tags: GAN, gene therapy, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, The Forever Fix

Hannah, 7 years old (Dr. Wendy Josephs)
“When you hear hoof beats, think horses, not zebras.” So goes the mantra of first-year medical students. If a common disease is a horse and a rare disease a zebra, then giant axonal neuropathy (GAN), with only 50 or so recognized cases worldwide, is surely a unicorn.

Five years ago this week, 9-year-old Hannah Sames of Rexford, New York, who lives near me, received a diagnosis of GAN, a disease much like amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. And this month, thanks in part to the herculean fundraising efforts of Hannah's Hope Fund (HHF), the cover and lead article of the Journal of Clinical Investigation reveal most of the story behind the devastating inherited disease, with repercussions that will reach far beyond the tiny GAN community. (more…)

Celebrating Gleevec – and Basic Research

May 10, 2013

Tags: chronic myeloid leukemia, Philadelphia chromosome, tyrosine kinase inhibitor, Gleevec, cancer, translational medicine, chimeric antigen receptor

Peter Nowell and David Hungerford began the work that led to the successful cancer drug Gleevec (Penn Medicine)
When 23-year-old Glamour magazine editor Erin Zammett Ruddy went for a routine physical in November 2001, she expected reassurance that her healthy lifestyle had been keeping her well. After all, she felt great. What she got, a few days later, was a shock. Instead of having 4,000 to 10,000 white blood cells per milliliter of blood, she had more than 10 times that number – and many of the cells were cancerous.

Erin had chronic myeloid leukemia (CML). Two years before her diagnosis, CML was a death sentence. But the drug Gleevec saved her and many others. It offers perhaps the best example of translational medicine. (more…)

The Sickle Cell/Malaria Link Revisited

April 25, 2013

Tags: DNA Day, World Malaria Day, Anthony Allison, malaria, sickle cell disease, balanced polymorphism, DNA Science

Eman is a medical student in Liberia.
Today is both DNA Day and World Malaria Day. As I was pondering how to connect the topics, e-mail arrived from my “son,” a medical student in Liberia. He had malaria, again, and this time it had gone to his brain.

I “met” Emmanuel in 2007, when he e-mailed me after finding my contact info at the end of my human genetics textbook, which he was using in his senior year of high school. He is my personal link between DNA Day and World Malaria Day. But the dual commemoration also reminds me of the classic study that revealed, for the first time, how hidden genes can protect us – that carriers of sickle cell disease do not get severe malaria. (more…)

Selected Works

instruction
Table of DNA SCIENCE blog posts with links, topics and chapter #s in Human Genetics: Concepts and Applications
Project to engage students in helping families with rare genetic diseases
Book Club Reader's Guide
Many challenging questions to stimulate thought and discussion.
Instructor's Guide
38 discussion questions to get students thinking and talking about gene therapy, including the science, ethical issues, and the drug approval process.
Narrative science
The Forever Fix is the uplifting true story of 8-year-old Corey Haas, who was cured of hereditary blindness just 4 days after gene therapy.
College Textbooks
A spectacularly-illustrated, clearly written human anatomy and physiology textbook, used in pre-health profession programs throughout the U.S.
A highly engaging, clearly written, beautifully illustrated introduction to the science of human genetics for the non-scientist. Now in its 10th edition.
Nonfiction
DNA reflects who we are -- but it isn’t the whole story.

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