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  • Genetics of love

    09 / 02 / 2020
    Posted by:

    Dr.M.Raszek


    Could love be genetically driven? There seem to be strong arguments that say yes. The components of adult romantic love are actually similar to the intense love between parents and infants. It has been proposed that the already existing design used for offspring caring might have been evolutionarily adopted for use between the mates. There is support for the notion that romantic love and parental offspring bonding share a biological signature, including genetic footprint underpinning it.


  • Human genome DNA test costs – how low can you go?

    30 / 01 / 2020
    Posted by:

    Dr.M.Raszek


    If you are looking at decoding your own genome, there are a plethora of options available to you and if you start doing your research (as we would hope you would!), you will soon discover a very wide range of genetic testing cost options. In fact, so wide, it will be at least a factor of 10! So what gives? What is the appropriate price for decoding your genome?


  • Most gossiped about genetic news of 2019

    12 / 01 / 2020
    Posted by:

    Dr.M.Raszek


    It is that time of the year again where we continue our tradition of looking at some of the most frequently shared articles on social media relating to DNA and genetics. These vignettes are in stark contrast to the typical information shared on the Merogenomics blog which is carefully vetted for scientific accuracy - but just as entertaining to read. Also unlike the typical content of the Merogenomics blog, the content produced for social media’s viral output can at times be absolutely outrageous!


  • Genetic editing legacy – update on the first designer babies

    31 / 12 / 2019
    Posted by:

    Dr.M.Raszek


    The creator of first live-birth designer babies was sentenced to three years in prison yesterday. It has been just over a year since the news of the world’s first genetically designed babies was announced in China. A young, very well-connected and aspiring scientist who was not only interested in the accepted genetic editing methods but was also seemingly hiding a secret - that he had produced the first genetically engineered embryos used to give birth to live children! It shocked the world and then condemnations swiftly followed. We explore was done wrong.


  • Latest genetic editing – targeting anything anywhere

    06 / 12 / 2019
    Posted by:

    Dr.M.Raszek


    Since its discovery, a massive amount of research (and money) has gone into CRISPR/Cas9 technology to modify it for the needs of research and clinical use. In the latest and most advanced rendition of CRISPR technology, the molecular machinery can now find a desired target and deliver any type of DNA change desired without the need of introducing double-stranded DNA breaks (breaking the DNA apart essentially) or without using a DNA template to produce the change. The leap forward is simply mind boggling.


  • DNA data security

    30 / 11 / 2019
    Posted by:

    Dr.M.Raszek


    When it comes to assessing personal DNA (whether for medical or entertainment purposes), the most common worry people appear to have is the lack of privacy protection around such personal information. DNA data can provide a wealth of information about an individual including the ability to discover the identity of an individual thanks to the public’s massive, indiscriminate, voluntary sharing of their DNA data. The ultimate goal is to control access to an individual’s genetic information and prevent unauthorized access in any way, by anyone! Read on to find out how DNA data might be abused and how it should be protected.


  • Alberta Health Services genetic testing 2019 overview

    06 / 11 / 2019
    Posted by:

    Dr.M.Raszek


    The world of genetics and genomics is vast both in private access to medical genetics as well as public. But how vast is it here in Alberta? We catalogued all of the different tests available in the Alberta Health Care Genetics and Genomics program.


  • How can birth defects be prevented?

    28 / 10 / 2019
    Posted by:

    J.Phillips


    Birth defects continue to be a major challenge in Canadian health care, affecting 3-5% of newborns, and the impact of these birth defects on the levels of infant mortality and childhood morbidity are profound. Although it is unlikely that we will ever be able to prevent birth defects entirely, research tells us that there are still many ways in which we can reduce the risk of our children having a birth defect.


  • Birth defects

    10 / 10 / 2019
    Posted by:

    J.Phillips


    Birth defects are disabilities and disorders that are present in an infant from the time of their birth. They affect approximately 1 in 25 newborns each year. 1 in 5 newborn deaths result from birth defects primarily due to defects of the heart, lungs, brain, and contribution of genetics. Since birth defects have such a profound impact on both the lives of families and society as a whole, it makes sense that a lot of effort is focused on treatment and prevention.


  • Will humans alter our species?

    29 / 09 / 2019
    Posted by:

    Dr.M.Raszek


    Not long ago the full genome of a humpback whale was decoded. The decoding of the humpback whale DNA was significant - it provided some clues on why whales have extraordinarily low rates of cancer. The big question that comes to mind is, can we use this understanding to our advantage? Could we use what we learn from nature to purposefully alter our own genomes to enhance our health?


  • Childbirth pharmacogenetics

    09 / 09 / 2019
    Posted by:

    Dr.M.Raszek


    Part of modern medicine’s benefit in the childbirth process is the array of medications available to a mother during labour (depending on her requirements). A client of Merogenomics who has undergone full genome sequencing, later became pregnant and wondered if her collected DNA data could be used in relation to any medications that might be provided to her during the childbirth process. In other words, is there any evidence that person’s DNA could be used to specifically personalize prescriptions and the dosing of drugs used during childbirth?


  • 23andMe health reports - how accurate are they? 23andMe review part 2

    29 / 08 / 2019
    Posted by:

    Dr.M.Raszek


    This is a second article of two dedicated to reviewing 23andMe DNA based health reports. We continue the 23andMe review with what impresses us about their process, what does not, and where should medical doctors stand when it comes to 23andMe results.


  • 23andMe health reports - how accurate are they? 23andMe review part 1

    19 / 08 / 2019
    Posted by:

    Dr.M.Raszek


    The 23andM test is currently one of the most famous DNA tests in the world and one of the most purchased ones. It was originally started to ascertain ancestry information. Now 23andMe can also offer health and wellness related information based on personalized genetic information testing. The health related portion of 23andMe tests can be divided into three components. The first one is wellness information which includes still experimental information related to weight, sleep patterns, certain dietary concerns, etc. The second and third health related components of 23andMe tests are referred to as “Health reports” and are the primary reason and focus of this two-part 23andMe review: they are the “Carrier Status” and “Genetic Health Risk” reports.


  • DNA carriers can be in trouble too

    23 / 07 / 2019
    Posted by:

    Dr.M.Raszek


    If only one of the two genes is mutated, the person is considered a carrier, and typically is not affected by the disease. In essence, the other good copy of the gene inherited from one of the parents rescues the deficiency of the broken gene that was inherited from the other parent. But DNA mutation carriers can sometimes exhibit some disease symptoms too. The patient’s understanding of their history might have to act as the guiding parameter, judged by the test ordering doctor if the condition should be further screened for or not.


  • What is a carrier status in DNA sequencing?

    01 / 07 / 2019
    Posted by:

    Dr.M.Raszek


    When you are planning to sequence your whole genome, decoding the sequence of your entire DNA, reproductive planning might not be on the top of your list of motivating reasons in which to do so. Many might not even appreciate that is actually one of the major benefits of genome sequencing. It allows figuring out how partners who want to have kids can match their DNA against the odds of passing on mutations to their children that could cause diseases.


  • The first family in Canada to have their genomes sequenced

    15 / 06 / 2019
    Posted by:

    Dr.M.Raszek


    Currently however, genome sequencing for health screening is still uncommon, as the technology is still fairly new and not many people can yet grasp the value behind the test. Therefore Merogenomics is very proud to have participated in what we believe to be the first example of a Canadian family to have used full genome DNA sequencing for health screening purposes. This included 5 family members spanning three generations: a young husband and wife couple, both of the husband’s biological parents and a grandmother on his father’s side.


  • What is genetic counselling?

    25 / 05 / 2019
    Posted by:

    J.Phillips


    If you or someone in your family has been diagnosed with a genetic disease then chances are you’ve already heard of genetic counselling, but many people have not. Genetic counselling is a very unique service provided in the healthcare industry. In a system that is focused on diagnosing and treating as many patients as possible, many doctors simply don’t have the time to sit down with their patients and help them understand all of the components of genetic disease and how to adapt to the changes in life that disease brings. This is where genetic counselling comes in. Being confronted with a genetic disorder can be a very overwhelming experience, and if you’ve found yourself in that position it is likely that you will have many questions.


  • So you sequenced your genome DNA - what's next? Part 2

    08 / 05 / 2019
    Posted by:

    Dr.M.Raszek


    This is part 2 of a series dedicated to discussing topics related to the steps to be taken or considered after you have sequenced your genome. Looking at your insurability and the potential legal consequences are the topic of this post.


  • So you sequenced your genome DNA – what's next?

    25 / 04 / 2019
    Posted by:

    Dr.M.Raszek


    You have the genome sequence results in your hands. You now have access to your biological code of life, the DNA code, and its current clinical interpretation. What happens next depends on why you sequenced your DNA in the first place. If it is a test to collect medical information about yourself, and if we assume that you are doing it primarily to benefit yourself, then the ultimate purpose of DNA testing for health predispositions or disease diagnosis is to persuade you to change your behaviour!


  • Can anti-aging be programmed?

    11 / 04 / 2019
    Posted by:

    Dr.M.Raszek


    The maximum lifespan of a given species, along with its particular aging process, is believed to be rooted in genetics. With the introduction of technologies that allow for the decoding of entire human genomes, it is no surprise that anti-aging research is currently exploding. If aging is built-in into our DNA program, then without a doubt the most controversial approach to anti-aging would be to remove the program from our DNA. Is that even feasible?


  • Pregnancy screening options and the role of NIPT

    31 / 03 / 2019
    Posted by:

    Dr.M.Raszek


    The primary concern and screening available for women is that for chromosomal abnormalities. Until the recent introduction of non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT), the screening program consisted of testing for specific blood markers (whether protein molecules or smaller chemicals) and an ultrasound, in the first and second trimesters of pregnancy. According to obstetrics guidelines, pregnant woman is supposed to be clearly told about her screening and testing options, and that includes traditional approaches, NIPT and even diagnostic invasive testing. Diagnostic invasive testing carry small but real risk of pregnancy loss. This is the primary reason why NIPT has gained so much in popularity because women don’t want to undergo diagnostic testing if they don’t have to, and place their pregnancy at risk. But because traditional screening is nowhere near as accurate as NIPT, with traditional screening, lots more women end up undergoing confirmatory diagnostic testing that they would not have to if they took the NIPT test in the first place.


  • A Review of The Language of God by Francis Collins

    12 / 03 / 2019
    Posted by:

    M.Mulligan


    Francis Collins’ chief goal in writing his book, The Language of God, is to bridge the perceived gap between religion and science. In this task, he succeeds at making the case to a religious audience, that good theology incorporates new evidence; in particular, the evidence in support of evolution. Collins’ argument falls short when he draws a line between religion and science, saying they have mutually exclusive domains of inquiry. This arbitrary line he draws leads him to make some tenuous conclusions about the origin of the universe, and the emergence of morality in humans.


  • Caregivers of patients with rare diseases

    28 / 02 / 2019
    Posted by:

    Dr.M.Raszek


    Being a rare disease caregiver is an intimate story of compassion, as almost all caregivers live in the same household as their care recipient, and this usually involves caring for an immediate relative. For most, it is a tale of familial love and enormous dedication, which is staggering in proportion to what a daily routine of a typical adult might be. Only 1% is dedicated to the care of non-family members. Caregivers are modern-day heroes, quietly going about their demanding lives, without fanfare, and unfortunately too often, without much support to ease their difficult duties. On this international Rare Disease Day we dedicate this post to the topic of those who take care of the people afflicted with such conditions.


  • Genetics of sexuality

    09 / 02 / 2019
    Posted by:

    Dr.M.Raszek


    Valentine’s Day is coming and that day has become synonymous with the celebration of romance, partnership, love… and potentially sex at the end of the romantic, seductive day. Of course, the reality often strikes far from the fantasy, but fulfilled sexuality is a normal expectation of a healthy lifestyle, and perhaps there is no other day throughout the year that we go to such lengths to please and seduce each other. So to celebrate this unique day, we want to delve into the genetics of sexuality!


  • The value of DNA sequencing at birth

    31 / 01 / 2019
    Posted by:

    Dr.M.Raszek


    Can sequencing at birth identify genetic findings that are potentially life-saving? Finally, the first results from the BabySeq project which investigated the impact of full genome sequencing in babies soon after birth suggest that DNA testing can uncover the risk of childhood-onset disease in much higher rates than previously anticipated, at nearly 10% of infants (9.4%). We are talking about conditions that were otherwise completely unanticipated to be present in these children based on their appearance, clinical examination, or family history. Furthermore, adult-onset conditions, which are typically not recommended to be investigated in children, were discovered at a rate of 3.5% in otherwise presumed healthy infants.


  • Most gossiped about genetic news of 2018

    11 / 01 / 2019
    Posted by:

    Dr.M.Raszek


    For a third year in a row, we are recounting the most shared genetic stories on social media so this has become our tradition to start the year. It is a collection of stories where the only metric we look at is the number of shares on stories about anything related to DNA. These can range from totally absurd, to very fascinating pieces of content that we would otherwise never come across if it wasn’t for this yearly review. Here are the most shared DNA-related stories on social media in 2018!


  • The top three protections for physicians using genomic medicine

    31 / 12 / 2018
    Posted by:

    Dr.M.Raszek


    Are you a doctor who wants to adopt genomic medicine now?

    Are you a doctor who has already introduced the use of DNA sequencing in your practice to assist your patients in their medical care, and want to make sure that the technology is used safely for the benefit of all patients?

    Or are you a doctor who simply encounters DNA sequencing test results, and wonders about the validity of the results or the safe practice use of such results?

    The following are the three most basic, but critical, steps to help you ensure safe practices, protect your patient from the harm of any test misuse, and at the same time, protect yourself and your practice from liability.


  • DNA quality consequence on your DNA test results

    06 / 12 / 2018
    Posted by:

    Dr.M.Raszek


    So you want to sequence your genome, all of your DNA, and look deep into the hidden secrets of your biological code? Then you sure will want to get quality information! It is easy to get excited about the results, but the majority of people who purchase any type of commercial DNA sequencing test, and even many of those selling it, actually have a poor understanding of the complexity of the process and the meaning of the results. With the speed of new DNA sequencing tests coming onto the market (at least 10 medical DNA tests are released per day, and who knows how many non-medical tests), many of them, if not the majority of the available tests on the market, will be providing DNA results that do not have any scientific validation, and hence no actual utility apart from having a bit of fun. However, while you are having some fun, you have to remember that you are disclosing access to your most private and precious biological information, your DNA. Instead, DNA information should be closely guarded by families, and retained for serious medical needs.


  • Birth of first genetically edited babies

    30 / 11 / 2018
    Posted by:

    Dr.M.Raszek


    When it comes to the news in genetics, very few blockbuster headlines come out that can be compared to the degree of what was announced this week from China: researchers declared the birth of the first human baby that was genetically modified prior to birth. We are ushering in the era of designer babies. It was not that long ago that we discussed this topic as a too distant possibility to merit serious discussion. Indeed, not that long ago it was not. It is incredible that in a mere few years, China has made such leaps in the use of genome editing technologies to start experiments on human subjects.


  • Cancer mutations and drug resistance

    11 / 11 / 2018
    Posted by:

    Dr.M.Raszek


    The current prevailing theory is that drug resistance in cancer is caused by the heterogeneity of cancer cells, meaning that cancer itself is made up of many differently mutated cell types. So that while a specific drug may kill off the bulk of the cancer cells, in this mixture of cancer cells, some cells will already have some resistance to the drug from the start, and eventually will flourish. This is why the current concept for the best cancer treatment option is to use a combination therapy of multiple drugs to ensure that all of the cancer cells are targeted. There is another possibility that is actually quite fascinating, and that is that cancer cells can mutate themselves in order to acquire resistance.


  • Inherited cancer mutations

    31 / 10 / 2018
    Posted by:

    Dr.M.Raszek


    October is breast cancer awareness month and lots of activities are happening in support of educating women about the best protection against this disease. In no other group is this more relevant than to women with the inherited predisposition to breast and ovarian cancer. Breast cancer now boasts a very high treatment success rate. The treatment of breast cancers has been so successful over the years, that scientists and clinicians are finally discussing the possibility of starting to mention that certain cancers can indeed be cured. So where does the inherited cancer predisposition fit into all of this? 


  • Human versus gorilla DNA – size does matter!

    30 / 09 / 2018
    Posted by:

    Dr.M.Raszek


    There are two types of technologies used to sequence genomes, any genomes. The most common one takes the genome that is cut up into millions of short fragments, and it is these short bits of your genome that are all being decoded by the instrument all at the same time. Computers then put all of these fragments back together to assemble your genome by comparing with an existing reference of what a human genome looks like. Basically imagine if you shredded a book in one of those office shredding machines, and afterwards you had to put it back together. Except that for a human genome, you wouldn’t be shredding one book, you would be shredding a whole bunch of bookshelves worth of books, and then putting it back together. On the other side of the spectrum is a long read DNA sequencing technology. As its name implies, it is a technology that can decode long stretches of DNA at a time. In this case the equivalent would be to try to put the book together with entire pages intact, as opposed to everything being shredded.


  • How we know what we know about medicine - A review of The Drug Hunters by Drs. Donald Kirsch and Ogi Ogas

    22 / 09 / 2018
    Posted by:

    M.Mulligan


    While authors Kirsch and Ogas impressively illustrate the laborious and quirky human process that enabled our discovery of various medicines, they fail to distinguish the limitations of the pharma industry's role in treating mental health.


  • Genome DNA testing in healthy people – what can you find?

    01 / 09 / 2018
    Posted by:

    Dr.M.Raszek


    Very little scientific data has come out to assess the utility of genome sequencing in healthy people. While thousands upon thousands of papers have been published on the use of DNA tests in helping to diagnose conditions in order to help manage existing health problems in the population, very little attention has been paid to healthy people sequencing their genomes, despite the fact that thousands of people have already done so.


  • Superhero versus disease genetics – what are your odds?

    18 / 08 / 2018
    Posted by:

    Dr.M.Raszek


    One major question one could (or should?), be asking themselves is, “what are the odds that if I sequence my genome I will find a health risk result?” Or in other words, a result that shows that a person harbours a pathogenic variant that is indicative of disease development. This is still a huge source of contention, and science is continuously pouring in to determine what mutations can truly be associated with disease, as well as how frequently such incidental findings about a threat to your health actually do occur in a population. As more humans have their genomes sequenced, some repetitive patterns begin to emerge.


  • Genome editing enters a new phase

    01 / 08 / 2018
    Posted by:

    Dr.M.Raszek


    The world of genome editing is heating up. Since its invention in 2012 of the targeted Cas9 gene editing system, the procedure has garnered massive funding and attention, and it is no wonder, as the potential medical implications are obvious. Quietly in the background, human embryo experiments are already occurring, setting the stage for what might be expected in the near future.


  • Personalized medicine – is it yet real?

    14 / 07 / 2018
    Posted by:

    Dr.M.Raszek


    Personalized medicine: you have to admit these words have a very good ring to them. It is probably what everyone thinks they are getting whenever dealing with a doctor, although the reality often falls short of that. While obviously every doctor will treat each patient with an individual approach based on their past history, it is not easy or cheap to dish out diagnostic testing to collect personal medical data to manage treatment. Therefore the amount of such testing will be governed by the amount of money available to pay for such tests for everybody. However, personalized medicine has a more defined niche.


  • Epizyme company in search of the first ever epigenetic cancer therapy

    28 / 06 / 2018
    Posted by:

    Dr.M.Raszek


    Tazemetostat is a drug for patients with specific genetically-defined tumors. This is how the future of both clinical trials and personalized targeted therapy is going to be defined. Well, perhaps more accurately, that future had arrived a long time ago, it is just that unfortunately not many oncologists are yet aware of or know how to apply such medications. But everything requires its time to mature, and eventually all of our oncologists will be sequencing patient cancer DNA without a second thought.


  • The Gene by Siddhartha Mukherjee

    11 / 06 / 2018
    Posted by:

    M.Mulligan


    DNA, the history of its discovery, and our ability to manipulate it, are the subjects of Mukherjee’s latest book, The Gene. The story of the gene is a journey across time and scale. Mukherjee eloquently animates the intertwining strands of history and science to demystify the gene and its discovery. He shows the idea of the gene proved to be elusive and counterintuitive to early thinkers. Its discovery was both “dangerous and exhilarating.” Unravel the language of our genome, and you discover inherent limitations of its perfectibility. Mukherjee manages to bridge conceptual gaps in our understanding of our own source code, and situate the reader in debates on the frontier of biology.


  • Is the future of patient cancer treatment in trouble?

    25 / 05 / 2018
    Posted by:

    Dr.M.Raszek


    While we are facing an ever increasing number of cancer patients to deal with, the corresponding number of oncologists to meet these needs are not increasing at the same rate. One scientific study that investigated the problem concluded that by 2025 the need for oncologist services will increase by 40% in the US (accounting for more than 83 million visits with cancer specialists), but the number of oncologists to meet these demands will increase only by 25%.On top of that, another study stated that half of the American practicing oncologists could be retiring by 2020. So we are faced with a very serious situation of a shortage of oncologists in the near future, which very likely will negatively impact cancer patient quality care, and exhaust our oncologists.


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