Video Round-up: Esther Dyson on Charlie Rose, Spencer Wells on Colbert, and important video I can’t show you on genetic discrimination

Esther Dyson was interviewed on the Charlie Rose Show this past week. Charlie Rose ends the show by saying to Esther, “I can’t wait to see your genome”. I think this is the first time I’ve ever witnessed this expression being used like this — said with such endearment too! — but I’m sure it won’t be the last. (A google search for this phrase shows zero results at the time this post was written.)

The first twenty minutes of the show are mostly about Esther’s involvement in the Personal Genome Project (PGP) [disclosure: I work for the PGP]. The discussion doesn’t stop at genomes or health; the rest of the show ventures into the future of commercial space travel, the internet, cookie monsters, personalized search, AI and more. Esther never ceases to inform and inspire me, and challenge the way I think. I’m so glad she is among the folks that will be pioneering personal genomics for the rest of us via the PGP. Check it out:

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The gene is dead…oh wait…alive but sloppy

The concept of the gene almost died this morning. I was just sitting at my desk minding my own business, reading a journal article when, blam!, the gene was dead. Well almost — turned out to be more of a near death experience. I’m sorry to report there was no white light or anything mysterious like that. But there was coffee, so thats good.

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University of Utah DNA Learning Center

The University of Utah deserves a huge amount of praise for a fantastic educational site about genetics.  Bright, lucid graphics.  Interactive features and multimedia (WOW!).   Well-written, lay-person friendly content.

The topics range from genetic basics, pharmacogenetics, to medical marijuana.  Check it out.

Flockhart on the ascent of PGx

MIT Technology Review interviewed David Flockhart of IUPUI recently.  Here is a snip about the adoption of PGx testing:

TR: But the FDA has already approved a number of genetic tests to guide prescriptions. Aren’t doctors using them?

No…A major problem is
going to be educating physicians who are, as yet, relatively uneducated
about the availa­bility of genetic tests to guide some of their
prescribing decisions.

TR: How long will that take?

…The movement of these tests into the clinic will happen
gradually with fits and starts….Demand will kick in within a year or
two, as patients realize the power of these tests. That will be the
biggest driver…

Erika Jonietz. Getting Personal about Drugs. Genetic tests are poised to revolutionize prescription writing. MIT Technology Review. March/April 2006.

David Flockhart’s website at IUPUI.

Russ Altman Talks at Google

Russ Altman, Opportunities for Pharmacogenomics and Personalized Medicine.  Google Video, February 22, 2006.

Russ Altman bio

Free Medical Books

Hey free medical books! The URL presupposes that these books are for doctors, but…

Hat tip

Genetics in MD training

Its well-known that a large number of physicians have a very limited understanding of genetics.  This situation is an artefact of medical education, which historically hasn’t included genetics in the curriculum to any significant degree — with the view that genetics is a specialty for rare diseases.  What is surprising though, is that this continues to be the case:

Industry leaders at a recent conference were unanimous in their conviction that personalized medicine will change the practice of medicine and drug development, but expressed grave concern at the lack of appropriate medical education currently available to bring that paradigm shift to fruition…Bruce Korf (University of Alabama, Birmingham) drummed home the medical education crisis. Fewer than 40 percent of medical schools run a genetics course, he said, and according to a recent survey, only one-third of physicians polled feel trained or competent to discuss genetic information. Medical informatics is a disruptive technology akin to a Tower of Babel. "Why can’t [Google] crawl through medical records?" Korf posed. "Is Wal-Mart - Google the future of medicine?"

FYI for all the bloggers out there, this post was written using Performancing for Firefox.  Highly recommended.

Holiday Reading List

Here is a list of what I’ll be reading over the holiday:

Adam Hedgecoe. The Politics of Pesonalised Medicine: Pharmacogenetics in the Clinic (Cambridge Studies in Society and the Life Sciences). Cambridge UP, 2004.

  • The first half of the book covers APOE-e4 and the second half Herceptin.
Carlota Perez. Technological Revolutions and Financial Capital: The Dynamics of Bubbles and Golden Ages. Edward Elgar Publishing, 2002.

  • Part of my Web 2.0 preparedness kit.
Dale Shaller. Consumers in Healthcare: The Burden of Choice. California HealthCare Foundation. October 2005.

  • This report by the CHCF has been on the to-read list for months.

Frederick J. Simoons. Plants of Life, Plants of Death. University of Wisconsin Press, 1998.

  • Simoons devotes 150 pages and copious notes in a rigorous analysis of the hypothesis that the Pythagorean ban on fava beans bears some relationship to higher rates of glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency among modern Mediterraneans (known as favism). The author explores whether this hypothesis is merely a whiggish interpretation of history or a classic example of biocultural evolution.


ArtiraiArti Rai. “Open Source” Biology: The Role of Law. Webcast of lecture presented at Duke Law School’s Center for the Study of the Public Domain. (realplayer stream)

Resource: Brief Guide to SNPs

Applied Biosystems has published a brief guide to genetic markers.  This 10-page document provides a quick introduction to such things as restriction fragment length polymorphisms (RFLPs), short tandem repeats (STRs), single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), and haplotypes.  Linkage and association studies are also briefly introduced.

Applied Biosystems. "SNPs — Powerful Tools for Association Studies" August 2003.

NPR Piece on Genetics

Robert Siegel and Joe Palca. "DNA: The Machinery Behind Human Beings" NPR All Things Considered. October 10, 2005. Listen to Part One, Listen to Part Two.

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