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

Genetic Linkage

Help Young, Blind Musician Meet Bruce Springsteen!

February 10, 2016

Tags: Bruce Springsteen, Leber congenital amaurosis, hereditary blindness, NORD

Please help Michael meet the Boss
Last March, my husband Larry and I attended the annual gala for the Curing Retinal Blindness Foundation, near Philadelphia. During the cocktail hour, someone was singing at the piano, “Born to Run.” I turned to Larry.

“Who would have the confidence to try to match Bruce Springsteen, and on that song? And sound just like him?”

Michael Smedley did. Blindness hasn’t stopped the then 15-year-old from being a musician, an actor, and an athlete. He’s a vocalist and keyboard player for the band Casual Friday.

But it isn’t easy. (more…)

Jono Lancaster Fights Treacher Collins Disease With Attitude

October 28, 2015

Tags: Treacher Collins Syndrome, rare diseases, NORD

Jono Lancaster spoke at the National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD) Breakthrough Summit, October 21.
When Jono Lancaster was born 30 years ago, his parents took one look at his face, and abandoned him. Today Jono, who has Treacher Collins syndrome, travels the world meeting kids with the condition and encouraging them to harness the greatest tool against the genetic disease – a positive attitude. Jono kicked off the National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD) Breakthrough Summit October 21 by sharing his story.

People with Treacher Collins syndrome do not have certain facial bones, and about half have hearing loss. Only 1 in 50,000 people in the US has it, and about 1 in 10,000 in the UK, Jono's home. Most cases are autosomal dominant and due to mutations in the TCOF1 gene.

But this post isn’t about DNA. It's about an incredible young man who is smart, funny, and caring, and quite beautiful. Here in Jono’s own words, from the NORD conference:

“I was born with a genetic condition that affects my facial features. I have no cheekbones, and so my eyes dip down. I love my little ears, they don’t get cold at night. But I do need hearing aids.

I’m one of the lucky ones. More severely affected individuals need help with feeding and breathing. I met some kids who’ve had more than 70 surgeries to correct problems that would make their lives easier.

My birth parents had no idea. When I was born, they were in total shock. I was out of the hospital 36 hours after I was born. Social services found someone to look after me. The foster carer was a lady called Jean. She was very short, and all her kids were grown, and she had so much love to give. Social Services told Jean there was a child in hospital whose parents were horrified, and there was no maternal bond. Jean said, “How could you not love a child?” She took one look at me and said, “Hell yeah, let’s make this happen!” (more…)

Tess's Tale: Social Media Catalyzes Rare Disease Diagnosis

September 17, 2015

Tags: rare diseases, Baylor College of Medicine, Tess Bigelow, Undiagnosed Diseases Network, NORD

Tess Bigelow
Attention to the plight of families with rare diseases continues to grow this week, providing a backdrop to another compelling tale of a family seeking a diagnosis for mysterious symptoms.

THE UNDIAGNOSED DISEASES NETWORK
The National Human Genome Research Institute’s Undiagnosed Diseases Network (UDN) just announced the UDN Gateway. This online application portal will guide patients to a growing national network of clinical sites, including six new ones and two genome sequencing centers. The Gateway replaces paper-based application to specific clinical centers for the few coveted slots. (more…)

Treat Cellulite, or Rare Diseases?

April 11, 2012

Tags: cellulite, rare diseases, Ricki Lewis, The Forever Fix, Today Show, Cellulaze, NORD, CheckOrphan, Canavan Research Illinois, Cystinosis Research Foundation, Hannah's Hope Fund

“Next, news that all women will want to hear!” teased the commentator on the increasingly imbecilic Today Show.

Soon I learned that, finally, we womenfolk need no longer suffer from the “horrible, dimpled ‘orange peel’ skin” of cellulite. The new miracle cure sounded like “cellulase,” an enzyme that breaks down wood.

Googling, I soon discovered that “Cellulaze” is instead a new laser technique that “pinpoints and disrupts dimpled pockets of herniated fat” and melts away the collagen cords that hold in place the vile lipid, while promoting formation of new collagen and elastin. It joins a long list of cellulite remedies, including sound waves, radio waves, massage, retinol, red algae patches, and extracts from licorice roots, horse chestnut, and kola. The market is $2.3 billion. (more…)

Non-PC Genetics Lingo

January 10, 2012

Tags: human genetics, Ricki Lewis, orphan disease, Orphan Drug Act, National Organization for Rare Diseases, European Organization for Rare Diseases, rare disease, race, people of color, mixed ancestry, NORD, Encyclopedia of Race and Racism, Sheila van Holst Pellekaan, HGDP, Human Genome Diversity Project, aborigine, Joseph Graves

We are all people of color, except the Invisible Man and Woman.
I struggle to stay politically correct when updating my human genetics textbook. “Hemophiliac” became “person with hemophilia” and “victim” vanished several editions ago. In the current incarnation, “mentally retarded” became “intellectually disabled” after colleagues warned that (more…)

instruction
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 11th edition, 12th to be published in September 2018.
Nonfiction
An ideal starting point for anyone who wants to know more about genes, DNA, genomes, and the genetic ties that bind us all.

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