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Genetic Linkage

A New Meaning for Strip Steak: Making Red Meat Safer to Eat

Despite the rising popularity of plant-based burgers like the Impossible and Beyond, plenty of people still like the real deal.

 

Many studies have linked eating red meat (beef, pork, and lamb) to atherosclerosis, colorectal cancer, other ills, and shortened life. That's why experts quickly challenged conclusions of a new study that downplayed the danger. I stopped eating red meat two years ago.

 

Now researchers have zeroed in on a single type of carbohydrate on the surfaces of the cells of red meat that might trigger the chronic inflammation that lies behind the associated illnesses. And they've found an intriguing way to remove it.

 

To continue reading, go to DNA Science, where this post first appeared. 

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What sperm banks could learn from Fox’s ‘Almost Family’ and ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ sequel ‘The Testaments’

I'm dreading the debut of the Fox TV series Almost Family on October 2. In it, Julia Bechley discovers that her dying dad, a famous fertility doctor, had made dozens of personal DNA donations that are now millennials, at least two of whom have unknowingly hooked up.

 

Many of us in the donor-conceived (DC) community have already seen the series as the Australian show Sisters on Netflix. I hope the new incarnation changes the ending, which was the worst since the supposedly-dead Bobby Ewing appeared in the shower in the 1986 finale of the TV series Dallas and revealed that the entire season, in which he'd died, had been a dream.

 

The 2013 film Delivery Man preceded both versions of Dr. Bechley's misadventures. In it, Vince Vaughan is the befuddled father of 533 twenty-somethings, thanks to long-ago sperm donations. A lot of them.

The danger of unintentional inbreeding.

 

 

To continue reading, go to Genetic Literacy Project, where this post first appeared.

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Did a ‘flawed’ bioterror plot doom Netflix’s ‘Designated Survivor’?

I was distressed to learn that Netflix cancelled Designated Survivor, after rescuing the show from ABC for a third season. Finally, the characters in the West Wing could speak realistically. But it didn't help.

 

I was thrilled at the bioterror-catalyzed plot, which borrowed Isaac Asimov's law of science fiction: change only one thing. But stronger science in the story could have built a compelling, biology-based case against white supremacy, because the weapon was to somehow seek the dark-skinned. Short-shrifting the science was a missed opportunity.

 

A relief from reality

 

The first episode of Designated Survivor aired September 21, 2016. With ten million viewers, many following star Kiefer Sutherland from his Jack Bauer/24 days, DS was quickly extended to a full season.

 

To continue reading, go to Genetic Literacy Project, where this post first appeared.

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Gene Therapy Update: Remembering Jesse Gelsinger

Like the mythological phoenix bird, gene therapy has risen from the ashes and is spreading its wings.

September 17 marked 20 years since the death of 19-year-old Jesse Gelsinger in a gene therapy trial. That tragedy halted the fledgling field, with the outlook worsening when, soon after, boys with an inherited immune deficiency developed leukemia when a gene therapy went off course. The momentum that had been slowly building since the first clinical trial in 1990 fizzled.

 

A Slow Comeback

 

Researchers rebuilt the viruses that ferry in working copies of genes, and gradually clinical trials resumed. But it took until late 2017 for the first FDA approval of a gene therapy: Luxturna, for blindness due to mutation of a gene called RPE65.

 

My book The Forever Fix: Gene Therapy and the Boy Who Saved It, from 2012, chronicles the history of the field as a backdrop to the Luxturna story. The "boy," Corey Haas, was 8 when he was treated in 2008. He's made amazing progress.

 

To continue reading go to my DNA Science blog at Public Library of Science. 

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