Posted by Colin Rose on April 15, 2012
This story in Science Now, a vehicle published by the AAAS for vulgarization of basic science, is a classic example of the hype surrounding gene sequencing and gene expression. To judge from this headline any reader would assume that the cure for Type 2 diabetes was simply to measure genes and gene expression. However when one reads the actual publication one discovers that the geneticist cured his diabetes by changing his lifestyle and didn’t even look at his “omics” while doing so. It`s a shame he didn`t report his omics during the lifestyle change because there would undoubtedly have been significant changes in gene expression only by changing the environment with no drugs. Such a demonstration might encourage other people to make those lifestyle changes before taking drugs knowing that there are signficant effects on the expression of genes. In a personal communication Dr. Snyder said that he has the data and will publish it later.
Before the days of genomics when I was reviewing grant applications, any application that proposed to blindly measure thousands of variables hoping to find something related to a disease or a macroscopic process was immediately rejected as a “fishing expedition”. But genomics is now big business. $Billions are being spent on it in the futile hope that a genetic silver bullet will be found for those diseases of self-destructive lifestyles that account for most of our morbidity and premature mortality. As Dr. Snyder has elegantly demonstrated, we need to first change lifestyles and then maybe worry about the genetics of whatever rare diseases remain.
Classic hype by the promoters of “omics”, short for genomics, proteomics and metabolomics. The underlying myth is that by measuring enough genes and their products something will be found that can be targeted with a genetic silver bullet and save us from our self-destructive lifestyles.
Dr. Snyder measured various gene products from day 0 to day 420 when he inexplicably stopped. He developed type 2 diabetes during a respiratory virus infection probably due to increased insulin resistance. He then realized he had to change his lifestyle and cut his calorie intake and exercised. By day 550 his blood glucose was back to normal. The cure of his diabetes had nothing to do with measuring his gene expression and everything to do with changing his environment.
Dr. Snyder developed two viral infections while monitoring his “omics” but inexplicably stopped measuring them 20 days after he developed type 2 diabetes. The heavy black bar indicates when he changed his lifestyle by eating less calories and exercising more during which time he only measured his blood glucose.
The Future is your DNA?
“The future is your DNA.” Who was the PR type at McGill who came up with that slogan? As we see above, Dr. Snyder, geneticist extraordinaire, has clearly shown that his future is his lifestyle. Everyone is born with a fixed genome. There are very rare diseases that are purely genetic in cause but the diseases that maim and kill most of the world’s population are primarily environmental. Our genomes are optimized to permit reproductive success in an environment of scarcity and borderline starvation and are not and never will be optimized to an environment of unlimited addictive highly processed food, alcohol and other drugs. Any amount of “omics” will not change that basic fact. In addition, the genomics promoters gloss over the profound problem in trying to make a connection between a linear code and the three-dimensional organism produced from the code. The phenotype is the result of unfathomably complex, self-referrential signalling and, so except for some relatively rare diseases that can be linked to genetic errors, there is no direct connection of the genome to predilection to common diseases. That is why huge amounts of data must be collected and huge amounts of money spent to glean even a borderline connection. This is why a recent study published in Science by the AAAS, the same organization that publishes ScienceNow, mentioned above, concluded that “for 23 of the 24 diseases, the majority of individuals will receive negative test results, … [so] these negative test results will, in general, not be very informative, as the risk of developing 19 of the 24 diseases in those who test negative will still be, at minimum, 50 – 80% of that in the general population”. In other words common diseases are caused by environmental factors regardless of the genome. Your future is your lifestyle choices.
In the more than ten years since the human genome was sequenced there is zero evidence that anyone has lived any longer because of that effort, as intellectually satisfying as it was. In Western societies, what has significantly prolonged life in the last decade is reduction in cigarette smoking. But other legal addictions to prescription drugs, junk food and alcohol threaten to wipe out these gains. Dr. Levin pleads for gene sequencing to solve the mysteries of chronic diseases like atherosclerosis that causes heart attacks and most stokes. “Via genomics medicine will become a more personalized, predictive and preventative science.” Such talk makes for good politics and attracts huge expenditures from governments, such as the likes of Génome Québec. Governments hate having to tell the electorate to change those self-destructive lifestyles that are the proven cause of atherosclerosis and most cancers but love to be seen as pursuing superficially attractive but futile high-tech cures that will obviate the need to control those legal addictions to which the electorate is very attached.
Posted in atherosclerosis, diabetes, Type 2, diet, environment, exercise, food, genomics, junk food | Tagged: michsel snyder, omics | 1 Comment »
Posted by Colin Rose on December 29, 2008
Every disease is caused by some combination of nature and nurture, genetic susceptibility and the environment, especially nutrition. Fortunately, most of the common fatal diseases and those costing the most to the disease care system are mostly environmentally caused. Attempts to find a simple genetic cause for atherosclerosis, hypertension, obesity and Type 2 diabetes were and are unscientific fishing expeditions driven by the analogy that we could immunize the population against these chronic diseases of lifestyle, as we can immunize against acute infectious diseases like polio or smallpox. As this paper makes clear the four-billion year old genetic code is a highly refined, self-referential system that is unlikely ever to be completely understood.
Unfortunately, changing the environment, aka lifestyle, necessitates conquering legal addictions to junk food, tobacco and alcohol. We would much rather spend $many billions on a futile attempt to find a magic genetic bullet to obviate the destructive consequences of addiction than face the painful necessity of eliminating them.
Genetic diseases may be tougher to crack, new research suggests
Last Updated: Friday, December 26, 2008 | 4:07 PM ET
Finding a cure for many genetic diseases — including some cancers and neurodegenerative ailments — may be much more complicated than previously thought, new research indicates.
An international team’s work on alternative splicing, the process that produces 75,000 of the proteins in human cells, found that small changes in the environment near an alternative splice could produce a large change in the proteins produced.
That’s important, because mutations in DNA sequences in alternative splicing cause more than half of all genetic diseases.
If the materials used in splicing are seen as forming a long sentence, then the individual parts can be considered words, said Tim Nilsen, director of the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine’s Center for RNA Molecular Biology in Cleveland.
“Adding or deleting one word,” he said “can radically change the meaning of the sentence.”
Biologists believe that rules hidden in the DNA code control alternative splicing, so once the code is broken, cures can be found for genetic diseases.
But the finding by Nilsen’s team on the importance of the environment means the code is much more complicated than thought. That will likely delay that progress of scientists who hope to amend the code to cure genetic diseases, said Joseph Nadeau, chair of the medical school’s genetics department.
“It’s context, not [genetic] code, that’s important,” he said.
The study, Dynamic regulation of alternative splicing by silencers that modulate 5′ splice site competition, was published in the Dec. 24 issue of Cell.
Nilsen led a team from three U.S. institutions — Case Western, Columbia University and the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Institute — and the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry in Germany.
Posted in addiction, atherosclerosis, diabetes, Type 2, diet, environment, genetics, junk food, lifestyle | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Colin Rose on December 11, 2008
The StatsCan data show that Governments, David Suzuki and Al Gore have had very little effect of profligate consumption. We are programmed by billions of years of evolution to consume anything we can get our hands on regardless of the destruction our greed is causing to ourselves or the environment. But it does appear that capitalist democracy has a marvelous self-correcting mechanism. The current recession clearly shows that when uncontrolled greed causes the money to run out consumption and GHG emissions drop dramatically but we aren`t dying like house flies in winter. For the sake of the environment if not our own health one can hope that the recession will last long enough that we will learn to accept that we can live happily with a lot less food, drugs and gadgets.
Climate change is a challenge for us all
THE STUDY CITED IS AVAILABLE IN STATSCAN’S THE DAILY FOR DEC. 9, AT WWW. STATCAN.GC.CA
11 Dec 2008
Climate change is a challenge not only for governments and big corporations, but for every person on Earth, since we are each individually responsible for generating greenhouse gases. New figures from Statistics Canada drive the point home, showing…read more…
Posted in addiction, diet, drugs, environment, green house gases | Tagged: Al Gore, capitalism, David Suzuki, energy, food, recession | Leave a Comment »