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Genetic Linkage

My Five-Year Breast Cancerversary

Five years ago today, I learned that I had breast cancer.


I didn't find out in the usual way, an alarmingly ambiguous phone call and then a sit-down with my doctor. The radiologist knew I saw patients in the office for genetic counseling, so while I was getting dressed after my annual mammogram, she beckoned me to her nearby office.

"Take a look at the two screens, Ricki. The left one is last year's image."


It didn't take training in radiology to see that something had happened since last year's mammogram. On the right screen, a small mass blocked a narrow passageway, a milk duct.


When the radiologist enlarged the image, the clump of cells was not only blocking the duct, but pushing against one wall. I realized instantly that if I had skipped my mammogram that year, the next year's scan would have shown invasive cancer.



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

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Halloween Evokes Thoughts on Organoids

When the jello brains and gummy organs of Halloween come out, my thoughts turn to organoids. These are tiny organs, or parts of them, grown in lab dishes or transplanted into rodents, so we can watch a disease begin and maybe even test a candidate drug. Organoid technology isn't a headline hog like CRISPR, but it's intriguing, and certainly easier to envision.


Organoids that appear from dividing stem cells offer a landscape of early development – the process of organogenesis. A heart, liver, or kidney takes form from dividing, folding, and interacting cells, a little like watching a photographic image emerge and sharpen in a pan of developer, for those who remember that technology.


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

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Men Can't Do Zumba. Is It In Their Genes?

Zumba saved me during the pandemic. Prior to COVID, I took 3 or 4 of the ATP-burning classes a week (for the uninitiated, ATP stands for adenosine triphosphate, the molecule that cells split to release energy). But in March 2020, when the world shut down, my beloved dance classes suddenly ceased. I remember my last class. Only ten people attended, because so many were already too scared to venture out. 


As lockdown continued, I found thousands of dance videos online, favoring a blond woman instructor from Germany and groups of teens from the Philippines and South Korea. It felt worldly while being trapped. My local Zumba instructors quickly reinvented themselves for zooming. Then when the world started to open up again, I returned to classes, masked until that, too, was dropped.


The one thing that stood out, especially during COVID, was how few men participated. Part of the reason may be a reaction to what some may have felt was a 'girly' exercise. But is something else going on here?


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

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