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Genetic Linkage

Hiding in Plain Sight: Exploring Parkinson’s Link to the Appendix

Lurking in the layers of the human appendix lie deposits of alpha-synuclein, a protein prone to gumminess, like sticky rice. Known mostly for its clumping in the brains of people with Parkinson’s disease, alpha-synuclein aggregates found in the appendixes of healthy people made headlines a few weeks ago.

Isn’t the appendix fairly useless, even dangerous when inflamed? Is it also a gateway to a brain disease?

Actually, a link between the Parkinson’s protein and the appendix has been known for a few years. Now, new experiments reported in Science Translational Medicine confirm the connection and suggest a protective role for appendectomy. But rather than advising people to shed their appendixes, the researchers see their findings as opening up a new target for drug discovery for Parkinson’s.

To continue reading go to Genetic Literacy Project, where this article first appeared. Read More 

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Linking Gaucher and Parkinson’s Diseases

"Gaucher cells" have a crinkly appearance from the build-up of glucocerebroside.
This month, JScreen’s ”Spit Happens" campaign is covering all costs not met by insurance for testing for carrier status for Gaucher disease, thanks to funding from the National Gaucher Foundation. The "spit happens" is an entertaining view of people spitting into tubes to collect DNA from dislodged cheek lining cells. Read More 
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A Little Girl with Giant Axons, a Deranged Cytoskeleton, and Someday Gene Therapy

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. Read More 
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Anticipation

Jordan and Hailey Kohl. Spinocerebellar ataxia type 2 affects several members of their family, including Jordan.
“Anticipation .. is keepin’ me waitin’,” sings Carly Simon in her song made famous in a ketchup commercial. But “anticipation” in the genetic sense is just the opposite of Carly’s croon – it means a disease that begins earlier with each generation.

Doctors once blamed patients for anticipation, as if people with sick older relatives could worry themselves into suffering similarly. Then, in 1991, discovery of a new type of mutation explained the curious worsening of fragile X syndrome: an expanding triplet repeat.  Read More 
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My New View of DTC Genetic Testing

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“Are you still collecting stories about DTC testing? I've got one for you!” my grad student L.W. e-mailed a few days ago. Little did I know her family's experience would change my mind about direct-to-consumer genetic testing.

L.W. had taken my online course “Genethics” in 2008 for the master’s program at the Alden March Bioethics Institute of Albany Medical College. Read More 
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Twin Study Supports Parkinson’s-Solvent Link



In this age of genome sequencing, it’s refreshing to read about the continuing power of a simple tool of genetics: the twin study. But in reporting a new study linking long-term exposure to  Read More 
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