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Hello and happy International Women’s Week!
March is so jam packed with celebration days that we thought we would just share it all, and then you can pick your favourite day to brighten the mood in these virus unnerving times.
Ok, so maybe a couple options are a figment of our imagination but we promise it will not be too difficult to spot which ones.
That's enough respite, now back to the depressing coronavirus - Joking! But we will add that starting March 22, do enjoy the National Cleaning Week, as it’s a good habit to take up now and in the coming months as we all collectively fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
Here are some interesting historical facts about genetics that happened in March. On March 17 in 1885, a medical report on the extreme deformities of Joseph Carey Merrick was presented to the Pathological Society of London by Dr. Frederick Treves. Merrick, better known as the "Elephant Man," is believed to have been afflicted by an extremely rare genetic disease known as the Proteus syndrome - characterized by overgrowth of the bones, skin, and other tissues. While Merrick is typically regarded as a tragic figure, he became a celebrity of sorts and even befriended members of the royal family. Photos of Merrick might not be for everyone, so here is an amazing art by Aeron Alfrey who specializes in art macabre.
On March 6th 1953, Drs. James Watson and Francis Crick submitted their article on the structure of DNA to the journal Nature, but we are saving that for next month, so stay tuned!
In March 1980 the U.S. Supreme Court debated whether a patent could be issued for a genetically-engineered organism and eventually ruled in June of that year in a landmark decision that such patents could be issued irrespective of whether or not the new technology consisted of a living organism. The debate was spurred by the development of genetically engineered bacteria capable of breaking down crude oil. The decision in the case of "Diamond vs. Chakrabarty" held that life can be patented if it came about from "human ingenuity and research". The patent was issued in March of 1981.
And finally, in March 1993 the identification of the gene that causes Huntington’s disease was finally announced as it took a decade and the participation of six laboratories for their efforts to come to fruition. The mutation is actually a multiplication of three DNA nucleotides (labelled CAG) where healthy individuals will have between 11 to 34 of these triplet repeats but Huntington’s patients have from 35 to 100 of them. Oh, please note, to obtain genetic information on a Huntington's predisposition using the Merogenomics full genome sequencing, we will require an additional consent form.
And just to keep things relevant to current events, it was on March 11th, 1918 that the first cases of "Spanish Influenza" in the U.S. were reported at the Army hospital of Fort Riley, Kansas. In the early morning of that day, a single soldier reported his symptoms but hours later there were over 100 cases and eventually the outbreak would turn out to be the worst in American history, killing over 600,000. But that was before much was even understood about viruses, apart from the awareness of their mysterious existence. Then it was in March 1976 that President Ford called for the mass inoculation of the entire American population against a H1N1 swine flu that was feared would be the next "killer flu" comparable to the Spanish flu of 1918. The virus never managed to spread outside the area of first identification, and the vaccination program was called off (after nearly 25% of the entire population being vaccinated) but later research suggested the fear of deadly pandemic was grossly exaggerated. Just to demonstrate Ford was a good sport, here is the picture of him getting the vaccine.
Short educational video
If you notice on the calendar above, March 21 World Down Syndrome Day. Perhaps somewhat controversially to commemorate the day, Merogenomics wants to introduce our video on non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT), which we advocate for pregnant women to use not in fear of a discovery of a Down Syndrome diagnosis, but to properly educate themselves about what it means to have a child with Down Syndrome. NIPT testing is often used as a tool that enables the termination of pregnancies of fetuses affected by chromosomal abnormalities, the bulk of which would be children with Down Syndrome. However, NIPT can also be used for positive outcomes, especially if an early Down Syndrome diagnosis is reinforced with proper education.
A second important date you might chose to celebrate is the Epilepsy Awareness Day (also known as Purple Day). As it happens, we recently presented to a group of doctors about DNA testing options for undiagnosed conditions to commemorate the Rare Disease Day 2020 and we focused on epilepsy. Here is a short video clip based on that presentation made for our local Alberta doctors - we hope you enjoy it as much as we did making it.
The final video is our public announcement to help inform about the best ways to protect yourself during this current SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus outbreak. We have studied this virus extensively as you will soon see, and we wanted to share this cute but ultimately very important video.
First, in celebration of the February’s Rare Disease Day 2020, and in addition to the educational event we had for doctors - we also had a guest author write a beautiful story of what it was like to grow up around a boy with a rare disease.
This second piece is our first deep dive into the genome of the coronavirus behind the current COVID-19 outbreak and to address some of the persistent rumours behind the virus. Along the way we learn why this virus is so unique.
The event for doctors on how DNA testing can be introduced into clinics was a huge success and was sold out! We hope to recapture this success soon again! What can we say, we were excited right at the doors of the venue!
The first presentation was by Dr. Raszek.
This was followed by a presentation from Charly Fatal, the financial advisor who has been responsible for providing affordable financing options for patients desiring DNA testing.
The final photo is of our amazing performing artist who received lots of compliments, Tiffany Sparrow who also happens to be a music therapist working at our local hospitals. If you follow the link to listen to her beautiful music, you will see why.
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