DNA Today: A Genetics Podcast
Summary: The radio show/podcast educates the public on genetic and public health topics through event coverage, news stories, book/movie reviews, and interviews. Guest include genetic counselors, researchers, patient advocates and professors in the field of genetics.
On this episode we discuss… The number of microbes in inside us and how they help us Factors/technology that impacted the start of this new field Differences between studying the human microbiome and genome Techniques/technologies used to study the microbiome Human Microbiome Project Healthy microbiomes Factors that affect microbiomes Variations between people’s microbiomes Microbiome research Role of a bioinformatics analyst in microbiome research
My guest joining me for this podcast episode is Dr. Pawel Buczkowicz. He is the Chief Medical Affairs Officer and the VP of Business Development at Gene42. He received his PhD in cancer genetics and molecular pathology from the University of Toronto. His research has been published in leading medical journals such as Nature Genetics. His discovery of novel mutations in human cancers and their associated clinical correlates, have led to a new World Health Organization classification that was implemented for paediatric gliomas in early 2016. Dr. Buczkowicz is passionate about improving healthcare experiences for both the patient and doctor and believes smart and efficient software will revolutionize the way medicine is practiced. On this episode, we discuss… Gene42’s Products: PhenoTips, PhenoTips Genomics, and OncoTips How clinicians/researchers use electronic health records Future of electronic health records in healthcare Importance of open-source databases Research on Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG) You can follow Dr. Pawel Buczkowicz (@pbuczkowicz) and Gene42 (@gene42inc) on Twitter. Stay tuned for the next new episode of DNA Today on April 6th, 2018 where I will be discussing the human microbiome with Bibaswan Ghoshal! New episode are released on the first and third Fridays of the month. See what else I am up to on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and iTunes. Questions/inquiries can be sent to info@DNApodcast.com.
February 28th, 2018 was Rare Disease Day! Rare Disease Day is an opportunity to raise awareness for 7,000+ rare diseases and the 30 million Americans who are affected by a rare disease(s). There were events held worldwide to raise awareness. The theme for this year's Rare Disease Day is "Research" and the important role that patients play in gaining an understanding of rare diseases and developing innovative treatments or cures. This year's slogan is "Patients are not only subjects but also proactive actors in research." This episode features a couple interviews with presenters, who I caught up with at the end of the Rare Disease Day event in Hartford, CT in the Legislative Office Building. This specific event is one I have attended for a few years and provides an opportunity for patients, caregivers, medical professionals and industry representatives to come together and educate elected officials about rare diseases, and what it’s like to live with or care for someone with a rare disease in the state. A main focus of the event was newborn screening, including the addition of Pompe Disease and Mucopolysaccharidosis Type 1 (MPS1) for Connecticut. Connecticut covers over 60 diseases, while most other states only cover ~40 diseases. A young man named Hunter Pageau spoke about his extremely rare disease, SMARD, Spinal Muscular Atrophy with Respiratory Distress. SMARD is an aggressive respiratory/neuromuscular disease causing paralysis and inability for patients to breathe on their own. And 1 of only 12 people in the United States, and of 80 worldwide, with SMARD. Being the trailblazer he is, he started YES, the young empowerment society for kids. He is a true inspiration and leader! Going with the theme of this year’s Rare Disease Day, researchers shared how vital funding is to their research and the cascade effect initial funding can have. Stormy Chamberlain, PhD, a researcher at UCONN who focuses on Angelman Syndrome, explained how the Connecticut Stem Cell Research Fund led to NIH funding and partnerships with pharmaceutical companies such as Alexion. Presenting alongside her was Jim Kubicza, a father of a child who has Angelman Syndrome. As a fierce patient advocate, he joined the Angelman Syndrome Foundation to help raise some of this research money. He also shared some aspects of being the father of a child with a rare disease, including the burden of expensive seizure medication, full-time supervision of his son, and fighting for basic needs for his son at school. He shared more in our interview in this episode. There was also a family with a daughter who has Dravet Syndrome. Beth Fox shared about her daughter's 250 unconscious seizures, despite trying multiple different medications, and their battles with her insurance company for coverage. In a cute moment, her daughter joined her at the podium, excited to introduce herself. Jean Kelley also spoke as a patient advocate. Her son Brian has a rare neurological disease called Adrenoleukodystrophy (ALD) for which she started an organization, Brian’s Hope. She shares more during her interview in this episode. Senators and Representatives also spoke about their support for rare diseases including the Connecticut Rare Disease Task Force. This bipartisan group focuses on newborn screening, insurance issues, support services in school systems among other topics. It takes 2.5 billion dollars and 12 years to develop a drug, so we need to give tax credits to companies so they have incentive to come to Connecticut for their research, which then helps the state. It’s fantastic that an event like this can bring legislators into the conversation so we can take action to help families with rare diseases. For more information about Rare Disease please visit NORD’s rarediseases.org and check out the other episodes about rare diseases including previous Rare Disease Days.
To raise awareness for February Heart Month, I am joined by Amy Sturm, a cardiovascular genetic counselor. She has 15 years of experience in cardiovascular genetics, personalized genomics, research, and education. Amy is the Director of Cardiovascular Genomic Counseling and Professor at Geisinger Health System's Genomic Medicine Institute. There she provides leadership for the scaling up of genomic counseling efforts in the MyCode Community Health Initiative. She serves as the President-elect and the Cardiovascular Genetics Expert at National Society of Genetic Counselors (NSGC). Amy also works with The Familial Hypercholesterolemia Foundation and The Sudden Arrhythmia Death Syndromes (SADS) Foundation on their important advocacy work, research, and medical education programs. On this episode, we discuss….. Roles of a cardiovascular genetic counselor Inherited cardiovascular diseases Familial Hypercholesterolemia Long QT Syndrome Red flags for an inherited cardiovascular disorder in a family history Genetic testing including the cascade screening method Preventative treatments for patients with a positive testing Importance of testing children Notifying at-risk relatives of patients To learn more from Amy, follow her on Twitter and read a few of her blog posts below: Am I at Risk for Heart Disease? Familial Hypercholesterolemia: The Common, Inherited Cause of Heart Disease Rarely Talked About Curious about the patient perspective in cardiac genetic testing process with a genetic counselor? One of her patients also wrote about his genetic testing experience guided by Amy. Stay updated on new episodes and activities of DNA Today via Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and iTunes. Questions/inquiries can be sent to info@DNApodcast.com.
We are kicking off Rare Disease Month, which leads up to Rare Disease Day (February 28th, 2018). My guest is Eden Lord, Co-Founder and CEO of My City Med. The company is an online health and medical resource site that allows patients to search for a doctor and read reviews, and also connect with non-profit resources and online community support groups. On the show, Eden explains how both patients and physicians can benefit from My City Med’s services and resources. She also provides insight into creating MobiMedQR.com a service that allows patients/caregivers to create a medical profile accessible through QR codes. My City Med and MobiMedQR were inspired by her own family’s needs to navigate the healthcare system. Eden is a mom to kids with rare diseases and during the episode, she shares her role as a caregiver and the journey her family has been through. She is also an advocate pursuing legislation to advance rare disease research. Attend a Rare Disease Day 2018 event! If you are in Connecticut, join me at the two events. The first is Quinnipiac University’s event on their North Haven Campus on 2/27 at 1 pm or an event in Hartford on 2/28 at 8:30 am in the Legislative Office Building. Not in Connecticut? Find a local Rare Disease Day event here.
After having a family history of Huntington's Disease, Antonio Maltese was pre-symptomatically genetically diagnosed with the disease himself. This diagnosis has motivated Antonio to become a fierce patient advocate with big plans to change the future of people with Huntington’s disease. Huntington’s Disease is progressive brain disorder that causes uncontrolled movements, emotional problems, and loss of thinking ability. This neurodegenerative disease is caused by an excess of CAG repeats in the Huntingtin gene (HTT). Unaffected people have this DNA sequence repeated 10 to 35 times. Those that may be affected have 35-39 repeats and those with over 40 repeats will develop Huntington’s Disease. This disease is inherited in an autosomal dominant pattern, meaning if a parent has Huntington’s Disease their child has a 50% chance of inheriting the disease. Antonio shares about his paternal grandmother who had Huntington's Disease and why he decided to pursue genetic testing. The biggest breakthrough in neurodegenerative diseases for 50 years recently occurred, 46 patients had their Huntington genes silenced at the University College London as part of a research study. Antonio I and discuss the impact this could have on Huntington's Disease and other neurodegenerative diseases. Antonio shares the resources he has benefited from including HDBuzz and the blogs where he has collected his research for others: huntingtonsinitiative.blogspot.com and chuffed.org. Don't forget to follow the show on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook!
Jenna Guiltinan is a laboratory genetic counselor. She received her Master’s in Genetic Counseling from California State University Stanislaus in 2013. Jenna worked at Ambry Genetics as a reporting genetic counselor for over four years. However, she recently left her position at Ambry to pursue a new laboratory position. As a laboratory genetic counselor, she helps interpret and report genetic test results. In this episode we discuss a subfield of genetic counseling, working in the laboratory. Jenna shares how her position differs from a “traditional” genetic counselor who meets directly with patients. She also provides insight on why more genetic counselors are pursuing careers in the laboratory setting. Jenna explains the types of tests run to identify genetic variants and what areas of healthcare utilizes these tests. The data produced from the tests needs to be interpreted, the genetic variants need to be classified. Jenna offers her insight on how much research is needed to support a classification and what a patient can do with this information. Variants of Unknown Significance (VUS) can pose a challenge when interpreting this data. If you would like to hear/read more from Jenna, check out her Twitter and LinkedIn page. She also welcomes student contact and can be found on FindAGeneticCounselor.com along with many other genetic counselors for both students and patients.
Megan Maxwell explains her role as a research genetic counselor. She has experience in clinical, laboratory, sales, educational, and research settings. She is currently a Genetic Counselor Project Manager for The MilSeq Project at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, TX. This research is conducted under the Genomes2People (G2P) Research Program at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, which is focused on the medical, behavioral, and economic implications of translational genomics and personalized genomic medicine, and the Air Force Personalized Medicine Program. Megan earned her BS in Human Biology from University of California, San Diego (UCSD) and her MS in Genetic Counseling from California State University, Northridge (CSUN). If you are interested in finding a genetic counselor as a patient or student, go to findageneticcounselor.com or aboutgeneticcounselor.com to learn more about the field. Stay updated with Megan on Twitter and LinkedIn. And don’t forget to follow my new account on Instagram, @DNAradio.
Eleanor Griffith, MS, CGC is a board certified genetic counselor and the founder of Grey Genetics, a genetics counseling and consulting company. Her clinical experience includes both prenatal and cancer genetics, in both public and private academic hospital settings. She is the Treasurer of the NYS Genetics Task Force and a member of the Admissions Committee for The Joan H. Marks Graduate Program in Human Genetics at Sarah Lawrence College, where she also received her M.S. in Human Genetics We discussed how students can have a competitive application for genetic counseling graduate schools. Eleanor shares her insight on the components of an application including prerequisites, personal statements, experiences (genetic counseling job shadowing, advocacy, laboratory work, counseling), and letters of recommendation. She provides an overview of what a typical interview day looks like at Sarah Lawrence and more information on what the Sarah Lawrence genetic counseling program specifically provides students. She also talks about her background as an English major, why she pursued genetic counseling and continues to love the profession. Here’s a complete list of all the accredited genetic counseling graduate programs in North America. Students can also find genetic counselors to job shadow and interview at FindAGeneticCounselor.com. Stay updated on Eleanor’s private practice on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. And don’t forget to follow my new account on Instagram, @DNAradio.
Heather Z is a patient advocate with two rare brain tumors and a hereditary cancer syndrome called Cowden Syndrome. On this episode she shares her journey from first symptoms, to genetic testing and eventually diagnoses and surgeries. Heather has a PTEN mutation which officially diagnosed with Cowden Syndrome. She offers insight on what she has learned through these challenges including how to helps others with hereditary cancer syndromes and rare diseases. Hereditary cancer syndromes evaluate one's risk to develop certain cancer depending on what mutation they have. For Cowden Syndrome this includes cancer of the breast, thyroid and endometrium (lining of the uterus). Most people with Cowden Syndrome develop hamartomas. These are noncancerous growths found on the skin, mucous membranes (such as the lining of the mouth and nose), and intestines. If you would like to hear/read more from Heather, check out her GoFundMe, blog, Twitter and Instagram.
“The Forum on Healthcare Innovation: Technology and the Future of Healthcare Delivery” was hosted by Jackson Laboratories in Farmington, CT on the UCONN Health campus. The conference was full of healthcare professionals and covered genetic testing (including direct-to-consumer), genomics, the microbiome, patient advocacy and healthcare technology. In this episode, I share highlights from some of the presentations including from Francis Collins, the NIH Director. Francis Collins, Director of National Institute for Health, shares that the NIH also stands for hope. Reasons for hope include uncovering life’s foundations, translating discovery into health and moving forward together. Collins gave an overview of the different projects ongoing at NIH, starting with the backstory of the Human Genome Project. A major aspect of the project that has impacted the future of research and healthcare was the data sharing. Every 24 hours, new data collected from the day was uploaded allowing researchers to start using the data in their own research. It would have taken years if the project had waited to release data when it was officially published. This idea of data sharing has increased collaboration between scientist, accelerating the rate of research and development. Collins also shared his excitement around CRISPR, the gene editing technology. From basic research to human trials. This is huge as people often say basic research is not worth the money, but every once in awhile something like this comes along and completely changes the field. CRISPS has already achieved the status of a revolution in medicine and biotechnology. Collins predicts it will cure the first molecular disease, Sickle Cell Disease. The current major NIH project is “All of Us” (formerly Precision Medicine Initiative). Beta launched in May 2017 with a full launch in Spring 2018 where it will ramp up to having over 100 locations. The purpose of the project to accelerate healthcare, specifically for individualized care. Enrolling one million participants is the goal. The term participants is key, as opposed to human subjects, as the patients are considered partners in this journey. Why now? One main reason is the insane drop in the cost of sequencing, in 2004 it costs $22 million to sequence a genome, now in 2017 the cost is $800. “We don’t have a healthcare system, it’s a sickcare system” Collins explained. The more data we can provide showing prevention is more effective than treatment will help us make this transition in our health care approach. Collins also commented on the exciting new field of microbiome research, studying the bacteria that live in and on us. Human Microbiome Project’s mission is to generate resources for comprehensive characterization of the microbiome. It started in 2008 and is now in it’s second phase. George Weinstock, professor at Jackson Laboratories, state there are 754 studies on clincialtrails.gov (as of 10/25/17) that list the microbiome. New genetic sequencing technologies (like Next Generation Sequencing) has driven this field. Research centers around the relationship between disease and the microbiome. The microbiome has additional obstacles when researching, compared to genomics, due to it’s enormous plasticity. Our microbiome changes with our environment, diet etc. One interesting research study mentioned studies Olympic level athletes to find out if there is a “golden microbiome”, so far they have found a bacteria in common with many of these athletes, M. smithii. Another advancement in the field is an FDA approved product produced from microbiome research data, AEObiome’s MotherDirt. It is a body spray that is designed to be compatible with the microbiome of the skin. James Lu, Co-Founder and Senior Vice President of Applied Genomics, Helix, discussed direct to consumer genomics and a few interesting new genetic themed apps (Neanderthal by Insitome, BABYGlimpse by HumanCode). He also talked about emerging platform for participatory research such as Precise.ly, which tracks symptoms and diseases. Lisa Anderson, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Genome Medical, stressed the potential genetics/genomics medicine has to improve patient outcomes and reduce costs of care, YET it’s not accessible to patients despite the technology existing. Genetic testing is growing 20-25% yearly, however the workforce is only growing by 3%. This gap is continuously growing. Her company aims to reduce this gap by providing real time access to genetic counseling. Anderson also predicts within 5 years every cancer patient will have germline and somatic sequencing. Andrew Ury, Chief Executive Officer and Founder of ActX, explained how direct-to-consumer genetics can be used for a potential screening for drug compatibility (pharmacogenomics). 90% of patients have potential drug genomic interactions. This is especially useful for mental health medications. An announcement/reminder that the first Genetic Counseling Awareness day will be on November 9th. Follow activities with #IAmAGeneticCounselor and on National Society of Genetic Counselor’s website.
Bo Bigelow made national news when he used Reddit and social media to find a diagnosis for the genetic disorder his daughter faces. Those same efforts led him to a researcher who is now investigating the disorder. Bo hosts another podcast “Stronger Every Day” and has written a book of the same name, as well as several novels. He co-founded Maine Rare. He was the State Leader for Rare Disease Day in Maine for NORD (the National Organization for Rare Disorders). He's also a lawyer. The film he produced, "Tess Is Not Alone: A USP7 Story" will be played during the Rare Disease Film Festival in Boston October 2rd through October 3rd. Learn more about USP7-Related Disorders on the Foundation for USP7-Related Disorders on their website. Keep up with Bo and his family by following @BoBigelow and @strongerpodcast on Twitter.
Daniel DeFabio is co-director of Disorder: The Rare Disease Film Festival. This event is a first of its kind showcasing a myriad of films from around the world that address the challenges of life with a rare disease. The film festival has support from some of the leading organizations in rare disease advocacy -- NORD, Global Genes, The Mighty, RDUF and MassBio. The event is going to be in Boston, MA on October 2nd & 3rd, 2017. Daniel has also written about the rare disorder Menkes Disease for The Mighty. One of these stories won the 2015 Rare Patient Story Award from Global Genes. He made a 12 minute documentary on Menkes Syndrome narrated by Oscar nominee Mary McDonnell. In 2008 he founded the Ballston Spa Film Festival. He was a pioneer of original content online (now called web series) and co-wrote and co-produced the internet's first animated series. He has created videos and motion graphics for American Cinematographer, PBS, bio-techs, hospitals, TNT's “The Closer” and HBO's “Curb Your Enthusiasm”. To keep updated with Disorder: The Rare Disease Film Festival, like them on Facebook.
Dr. Susan Capasso is the Genetic Counseling Program Director at Bay Path University, a new online program graduate level program. She was previously the vice-president of academic affairs, dean of faculty and the chief academic officer of St. Vincent’s College. She received her B.A. at the University of Vermont, M.S. from Georgetown University, and Ed.D. from the University of Hartford. Dr. Capasso is also a licensed and certified genetic counselor and served as a Genetic Counselor at St. Vincent’s Medical Center. In this episode, we discuss aspects of genetic counseling and getting kids excited about STEM fields. Dr. Capasso shares her personal career path into genetic counseling and how this journey differs between genetic counselors. We discuss the skills required to be a genetic counselor and what roles and responsibilities they carry. The episode wraps up with recommendations and advice for those pursuing the field of genetic counseling.
Over the weekend, geneticists, genetic counselors, professors, researchers and students gathered at the University of Connecticut to learn about a new genetic editing technology that has taken over labs and stolen headlines, CRISPR. UCONN hosted "The Impact of CRISPR on Imprinting Disorders" featuring presentations from Christopher Stoddard, Dr. Marc Lalande, Dr. Stormy Chamberlain, Dr. Michael O'Neill among others. Chris Stoddard, who operates the human genome editing core at UCONN Health, join me on the show to explain CRISPR's origin, how we adapted CRISPR to use it in the lab, and two different CRISPR methods (editing the genome and the epigenome). I highlight other research with CRISPR including to research autism spectrum disorder, Angelman Syndrome and Prader-Willi Syndrome.