Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Epi-Genomic Canary

So many people talk about guniea pigs as the research subject. I think this is a disservice for the pigs. Personally I think the Shaft Canary is a much better analogy. You see, the subtle changes from the human guinea pigs may not make big headlines or get the public to listen....But, the canary in the shaft always makes big press.

If you don't know what I am talking about, let me explain. One of coal miners earliest and continuous problems was carbon monoxide. It can kill fairly quickly. But way back when, there were no gas detectors.....we had a vey limited ability to identify the dangerous gas. So what did they do? They carried a surrogate into the mine...The canary was a pretty easy to read detector. If the bird died, then you should leave the mine shaft.

With our ever expanding set of genetic risk profiling we need an easy way to read and interpret it. The problem is not that there exists a risk profile. The problem lies in what we can avoid to decrease that risk. Thus the new canary......
I spent the afternoon speaking with David Duncan, if you don't know about David, let me fill you in. David is a writer/editor and I covered him and KK of Quantified Self briefly the other day.

David is the bestselling author of Calendar (published in 19 languages) – Chief Correspondent of National Public Radio’s “Biotech Nation”; Contributing Editor and Columnist, Portfolio; Director, Center for Life Sciences Policy, UC Berkeley. He is author to articles and short stories, and a television, radio and film producer and correspondent. He is the co-host of NPR’s Biotech Nation.

David has been working on himself for the last few years. He has done things like expose himself to environmental toxins like mercury to see if he can detoxify the load, 321 toxins to be precise. He also has been getting genomic screening and recently joined our project at The Delaware Valley Personalized Medicine Project.

David is poised to really bring attention to the utility and limitations of modern Genomic Medicine. He also is going to show us how Enviro-Genetic interactions affect the Everyman. In addition to this testing, he also examined the Mind and body through things like functional MRI, systems biology analysis. If you ask me David, your genotype OddsRatio of 1.6 for MI is only useful when you mention your family history. I would like to see your 3 generation pedigree.
We talked about many things including the erosion of med students' genetic knowledge, Helix Health of Connecticut (The Early Years), 50 year old white men, Navigenics, 23andMe, Josh Adler, and the future of medicine.
The Sherpa Says:
David is the Canary, not the Guinea Pig. I admire him and look forward to his future experiments. I hope he didn't take offense to my "50 year old white man" comments! Thanks for coming into the mine with us David.....Your work is a necessity that will save countless lives.

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