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

Genetic Modifiers: Healthy Mutants Fuel Drug Discovery

April 12, 2013

Tags: BRCA1, BRCA2, incomplete penetrance, 23andMe, exome, genome, genetic counseling, amyloidosis, Alzheimer, Parkinson

Disease-causing mutations in healthy people suggest new drug targets. (NHGRI)
I’m uneasy counseling a patient for mutations in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 cancer susceptibility genes. Typically, she’ll have a “first degree relative” – usually a mother or sister – with a related cancer, or might even have a test result in hand. This happened a week ago.

FUZZY GENETIC INFORMATION
My patient comes from a long line of female relatives who’d died young from breast or ovarian cancer. She’s already been tested and knows she has a BRCA1 mutation. Will she get the family’s cancer? Knowing would enable her to decide whether and when to undergo surgery to remove her breasts, ovaries, and uterus. (more…)

Incidental Findings from Genome Sequencing – Nuances and Caveats

March 24, 2013

Tags: genome, DNA, incidental finding, 23andMe, bioethics

A genome sequenced to investigate one disease may reveal another.
You have your genome or exome (the protein-encoding part) sequenced to help diagnose a puzzling set of symptoms, and something totally unrelated, and unexpected, turns up – a so-called “incidental finding.”

Surprises, of course, aren’t new in medicine. The term “incidental finding” comes from “incidentaloma,” coined in 1995 to describe an adrenal tumor found on a scan looking for something else. I had one -- a CT scan of my appendix revealed a polycystic liver. A friend had it much worse. She volunteered to be a control in an Alzheimer’s imaging trial, and her scan revealed two brain aneurysms!

Geneticists have long expected an avalanche of incidental findings from clinical (exome or genome) sequencing. (more…)

Genetic Testing: Carrier Confusion & Generation Reversal

February 5, 2013

Tags: breast cancer, direct-to-consumer genetic testing, 23andMe, BRCA1, genetic counseling, genome

A breast cancer cell. (Natl Cancer Inst)
In the usual trajectory of passing on genetic information, the older tell the younger, when the time is right. Typically, a patient has a genetic test because family history, ethnic group, or some other clue suggests to an astute practitioner an increased risk of something specific.

If a test reveals a mutation that could cause a disease, then the patient and perhaps her partner discuss how, when and what to tell their children – in the best of circumstances, with the help of a genetic counselor. (more…)

Why I Don't Want to Know My Genome Sequence

November 2, 2012

Tags: exome, genome, human genome project, Craig Venter, James Watson, Ozzy Osbourne, Francis Collins

Even after writing 10 editions of a human genetics textbook, I don't want to know my genome sequence. Yet.
Famous folk have been writing about their genome sequences for a few years now. But when I received two such reports at once last week – about genetics researcher Ron Crystal, MD, and a hypothetical (I think) story about President Obama, I knew it was time to take action.

Or, in my case, inaction. (more…)

Like a Game of “Clue,” Genomics Tracks Outbreak, Revealing Evolution in Action

August 22, 2012

Tags: epidemiology, NHGRI, Science Translational Medicine, genome, Klebsiella pneumoniae, NIH

Genome sequencing traced a deadly bacterial outbreak at the NIH Clinical Center in June 2011.
Was it Colonel Mustard in the library with a lead pipe? Or Mrs. Peacock in the ballroom with a candlestick? No, it was deadly, drug-resistant Klebsiella pneumoniae from a 43-year-old woman spreading to 17 other patients, killing 6 of them and sickening 5 others, at the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) Clinical Center in June 2011.

In (more…)

The Bonobo Genome, Dave Matthews, and Rewinding the Tape of Life

June 15, 2012

Tags: bonobo, chimp, genome, Janet Kelso, Svante Pääbo, Kay Prüfer, Max Planck Institute, Frans de Waal, Ape House, Planet of the Apes

Ulindi, a bonobo, has had her genome sequenced. Photo courtesy Max Plank Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
When I wrote for The Scientist, I covered the debuts of several genome sequences – fruit fly, rat, pufferfish, and the plague bacterium, to name a few. An illustration in my human genetics textbook resembles the intro to The Brady Bunch, a checkerboard of nine new genomes with each edition, now with more than 1,000 to choose from. In just the past few weeks, several salad ingredients have had their genomes unveiled.

But the genome sequence to intrigue me the most, except for our own, is that of the bonobo, aka Pan paniscus. (more…)

My Microbiome

June 2, 2010

Tags: microbiome, DNA, penis microbiome, oral microbiome, skin microbiome, genome, vaginal microbiome, gut microbiome

My Microbiome

Yesterday I committed a terrible crime. I walked away from a treadmill at the Y without scrubbing the handles.

“Ricki, get back here,” admonished the attendant as I headed for the elliptical. “You forgot to wipe down!”

“But I’m not sweating, and I never get sick. I won’t pass along (more…)

Creating Life and Curing Blindness

May 21, 2010

Tags: Venter, DNA, creating life, genome, American Society of Gene and Cell Therapy, gene therapy, blindness

I’ve been at the American Society of Gene and Cell Therapy annual meeting this week, garnering tales for my book, tentatively entitled “The Forever Fix.” It is largely the story of 9-year-old Corey Haas, who was on his way to certain blindness when gene therapy performed at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia in September 2008 (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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