Science & Medicine

News Briefs… September 15, 2012



Junk DNA…

That 80% of DNA we thought was just leftover stuff or Dark Matter is coming to light as ENCODE (ENCyclopedia of DNA Elments) starts releasing papers.  “It’s like a jungle of stuff out there,” said a lead investigator.  “Things we thought we understood are much moer complex and places in the genome we thought were completely silent are teeming with life…, teeming with things going on and we really don’t understand that.”” For a pretty comprehensive overview of this massive project that is certain to expand our understanding of genetic diseases, have a look at Ed Jong’s article in Discover on-line…

23and Me nearing the finish line....

And talking of DNA, how’s yours?  Last chance to find out under 23andMe’s offer of a free analysis for MPN patients is drawing near.

Since first calling for volunteers to submit DNA samples by spitting in a supplied tube, (see original MPNforum evaluation article)  personal genetics leader 23andMe is only 49 participants short  of completing it’s 1000 member  MPN cohort.  The attraction for us as MPN patients, is a free DNA report with health and ancestor analyses plus updates as new genetic associations are found.

This is our chance to make MPN research cheaper, faster, and easier by assembling a test group in a computer. The attraction for 23andMe is the ability to offer enhanced medical research capabilities at affordable rates.   MPN scientists  and clinicians like Ruben Mesa, Jason Gotlib, and Ross Levine have signed on as consulting colleagues.
To Sign up or just get more information about the MPN research program, or

Organic vs. Conventional Foods

So strange. Just when you think you have things figured out, along comes another scientific study headline that leaves you scratching your head,and shrugging your shoulders before you  throw up your hands in defeat

We’re talking about the Stanford/Palo Alto retrospective literature study of organic vs conventional food  published September 4 in the Annals of Internal Medicine (Dr. Crystal Smith-Spangler, lead author)

From the headlines you’d think it was a myth-buster story. Organic no better than conventional foods…only a lot more expensive.  Even the study’s own conclusions would lead you to believe there’s not much point in selecting organically grown food:  Based on review of nutrient levels and reported adverse effects“The evidence does not suggest marked health benefits from consuming organic versus conventional foods…”

Nutritionally, organic and conventional are about the same. That’s not going to be much of a surprise to health conscious foodies. The attraction to organic lies in freedom from pesticides and carcinogens as well as the defining characteristics of real food.  Organic simply smells and tastes better, two parameters not even considered in the study.

 True, an organic tomato may have the same nutrients as one “conventionally” sprayed, genetically altered with fish genes to resist cold, and endowed with designer DNA spliced for factory growth size, storage and color criteria.   But which would you imagine tastes better?  And which is likely to have less chance of making you glow in the dark over the long-term.

And that leaves aside a primary reason to buy organic;  avoidance of ingested poisons.,,,Here the Spangler report continues its conclusions : “Consumption of organic foods may reduce exposure to pesticide residues and antibiotic-resistant bacteria.”

Whoa, what are we talking here, a little or a lot? That reduction can be pretty considerable.  The authors found the risk for exposure to antibiotic-resistant bacteria is 33% greater for farmed conventional vs. organic cnicken or pork and 30% greater for risk of pesticide contamination for those selecting conventional produce from  the grocery bins vs. organic.

NPR took the bait and more or less accepted the headline version of the study. (Organic debunked)   But many others objected.  The analysis, known as a meta-analysis, combined data from more than 200 papers into a single data set. The questionable nature of meta-analysis and stiff resistance to the conclusions is treated at length in some on-line articles and comments. 

The headlines for the same story could just have accurately read: Organic food one-third safer than conventional.   But how much media attention would that have grabbed?

You going to be in Chicago September 20?

Sure, it’s late, but if you’re in the Chicago area you can still attend the MF Research Foundation’s Midwest Patient Symposium, September 20.  It’s an all day event with MPN experts and the Chicago MPN Roundtable on hand to present material and answer your questions. Cheap, at $75…including continental breakfast, lunch and snacks. Register here  or phone 312-683-7249 for availabilities


Take me back to the Contents

©, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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