"Both clinical and direct-to-consumer genetic testing have become significantly less costly and more common, providing people with access to a wealth of information about everything from their ethnicity and family lineage to their risk for certain diseases and how they will respond to medications such as blood thinners and antidepressants. But before you decide to take the plunge into your gene pool, ...

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Both clinical and direct-to-consumer genetic testing have become significantly less costly and more common, providing people with access to a wealth of information about everything from their ethnicity and family lineage to their risk for certain diseases and how they will respond to medications such as blood thinners and antidepressants. But before you decide to take the plunge into your gene pool, there are a number of issues you should carefully ...

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Recently I made a self-deprecating joke among friends, when one of them said, “that’s so Jewish,” to which another quipped, “What do you expect? It’s in the genes.” The idea of a Jewish gene is not necessarily new, but it has become more popular and more concerning in recent years.  For example, today, direct-to-consumer genetic testing companies, like 23andMe and Ancestry.com, identify people with certain genetic markers as being a percentage Jewish, ...

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It can be difficult to tease out the evidence-based science amidst the claims of successful adult stem cell-based treatments for a range of health problems from joint pain to Parkinson’s disease, macular degeneration, and spinal cord injury. Even a number of well-respected medical centers now offer patients regenerative medicine treatments that use the patient’s own fat or bone marrow cells or extracts created from platelets in their blood. ...

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As I was scrolling through my Facebook feed one morning, I noticed an article with a title starting with: "When Doctors are Wrong" with a picture of a newborn baby with a breathing tube in the NICU. I immediately opened the article and started reading it with interest because my baby also looked this way, so tiny, in the NICU, with lots of tubes all covering her little body. As I ...

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STAT_LogoWhen the Human Genome Project began in 1990, bioethicists feared that giving people the results of genetic tests would do them a lot more harm than good. Experts feared that individuals who received genetic information about their future health status would be overwhelmed by depression or anxiety. Or as genetic testing became more widely available, it would ...

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You can save your baby for $2 million. Can you afford to do this? If you cannot, should we all pay? Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is a rare genetic disease affecting the part of the nervous system that controls voluntary muscle movement. All types of SMA result from a single known cause, a deficiency of a protein called SMN, for "survival of motor neuron." When SMA symptoms are present at birth ...

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Just because something is legal, doesn’t make it right. Just because we enjoy a right of free speech, doesn’t mean we should be verbally insulting people. Just because the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves a treatment or a test, doesn’t mean we should pursue it. The FDA has given approval to 23andMe, a private company, to provide genetic testing directly to individuals. The results provide genetic risks of contracting several ...

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“Personalized” medicine sounds appealing. Rather than just guessing at what medication to try, a genetic test can figure out, in advance, which medications will be effective and which medications are more likely to make you sicker. Except it doesn’t work. It’s mostly marketing and hype. The FDA has officially warned consumers and physicians that genetic tests sold to predict patient responses to medications shouldn’t be used. They’re not FDA approved, and ...

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STAT_Logo "Is she in pain?" I asked quietly as the pearlescent baby-shaped image on the screen folded its legs and then extended them. The radiologist doing my ultrasound had just finished pointing out a cluster of alarming abnormalities in our developing daughter, using a slew of medical terms my husband and I, both medical students, were grimly familiar with. Pleural ...

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Health care providers and even consumers who order their own genetic testing should really get to know GINA. Who or what is GINA? Is it some new virtual voice-activated personal assistant? Is she a new Italian superstar? Neither choice is correct. GINA stands for the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, a U.S. federal law that was put in place to protect consumers from discrimination based on their genetic testing. GINA celebrates ...

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For $199 and a tube of saliva, I found out that I have straight hair and green eyes. Mirrors have been telling me this my whole life for free. But as a genetics counselor, I wanted to learn more about the recreational home genetics tests that have been captivating people. What I was left with (aside from the aforementioned physical description and unsurprising heritage data), was the sense that the dangers ...

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Test your medicine knowledge with the MKSAP challenge, in partnership with the American College of Physicians. A 46-year-old man is evaluated for intermittent rectal bleeding of 3 months' duration. He is otherwise well and takes no medications. His father had a few polyps removed from the colon when he was 71 years old, but no other details are known about his father's medical history. The ...

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Before the invention of the stethoscope, doctors routinely laid their ears on chests of patients to check how they were doing. Homemade concoctions, essentially placebos, often made people feel better. Doctors visited homes of patients who would later pay them whatever they could afford. Local apothecaries sold morphine, a derivative of opium, to reduce pain. Medicine for its part was a nascent science - most of today’s diseases were yet ...

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STAT_Logo Home delivery for everything from fresh produce to custom-selected clothing has become a way of life for many Americans. While most home-delivery conveniences are generally changing our lives for the better — giving us more time and choices — at-home genetics kits that reveal information about the risk of developing certain cancers represent a risky step in ...

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The approval by the Food and Drug Administration of 23andMe’s BRCA test is bound to create a discussion about the merits and pitfalls of direct to consumer genetic testing for cancer risk. It is also going to add fuel to a growing fire about how we as a nation assess genetic risks for cancer, and whether society is prepared for what is inevitably going to become a ...

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Technological advancement often outpaces society’s ability to understand how to use new advances. Direct-to-consumer genetic testing (DTC-GT) is one such technology whose true power far exceeds our collective mental bandwidth to comprehend. Home testing kits have come into mainstream culture over a short period of time. In 2010, the direct to consumer testing market was valued at $15 million. It grew almost nine times to $130 million in just five years ...

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Born in 1920, Henrietta Lacks lived in Virginia and Maryland, worked as a tobacco farmer, and mothered five children.  At age 31, her life was unfortunately cut short by cervical cancer.  Since her death, she has helped catalyze numerous biomedical discoveries. Upon treatment at Johns Hopkins, Henrietta’s physician obtained a tumor sample.  To his amazement, her cells survived and divided in a petri dish.  Today, her cells are still used in ...

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With the attempts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, it is a good time to educate our leaders on an opportunity to significantly reduce the incidence of the most expensive and common preventable, pre-existing condition: What your mother did or didn’t eat when she was pregnant with you. Yes, it is a pre-existing condition that determines how you die. Confused? Let me give you a little scientific context. Recently I was ...

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We cannot let the anecdote rule over us.   We don’t make sound policy if we are swayed by isolated emotional vignettes.  Of course, a vignette describes a living, breathing human being, but we must consider the greater good, the overall context and the risk of letting our hearts triumph over our heads when making general policy.  Consider these examples. If an expensive drug treatment program keeps five addicts clean for six ...

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