Profile: Ricki Lewis
Ricki Lewis is a science writer with a PhD in genetics. The author of several textbooks and thousands of articles in scientific, medical, and consumer publications, Ricki's first narrative nonfiction book, 'The Forever Fix: Gene Therapy and the Boy Who Saved It,' was published by St. Martin's Press in March 2012. In addition to writing, Ricki provides genetic counseling for parents-to-be at CareNet Medical Group in Schenectady, NY and teaches 'Genethics' an online course for master's degree students at the Alden March Bioethics Institute of Albany Medical Center.
NoteStreams By Ricki Lewis
Yo-Yo Dieting - we've all been there. Could science help us understand why it happens - and how to stop the cycle? Ricki Lewis, Phd says yes - and shares how it actually worked for her.
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A “good” animal model is one that has the same symptoms of a disease that we do, right?
Not always. Sometimes we can actually learn more when an animal is not a perfect model; their good health can reveal new points of intervention. That’s the case for cystic fibrosis (CF), according to findings published today in Science. Mice with CF that do not develop airway infections hold a chemical clue to how people with CF might do the same.
Targeted treatments for cancer have been extending and saving lives for more than 15 years — precision medicine isn’t a new idea in oncology. Now drugs pioneered on select, specific cancers are, one by one, finding new applications. The first wave of targeted drug approvals were for cancers associated with specific mutations. Herceptin (traztuzumab) led the way, approved in 1998. It’s a monoclonal antibody deployed against the HER2/neu receptor that is overabundant in some aggressive and early-onset breast cancers. Robert Bazell’s excellent book Her 2 tells the tale.
Recently, I was part of a panel on Health Link with Benita Zahn, WMHT TV, to discuss the genetics behind the “Angelina Jolie effect” that has catalyzed testing for the BRCA mutations that increase risk for breast and ovarian cancer. It’s a tough assignment. A letter in the current People magazine referring to Jolie’s recent announcement of the removal of her ovaries, following a double mastectomy last year, illustrates how at least one person is misconstruing the genetics of Jolie’s situation: “How did she go about getting these types of tests and elective surgeries? It would be good to know if the same options are available for all women or if these procedures are something only afforded to the rich and famous.”
Two weeks ago a neurologist asked me to blog about a US-based company that is offering stem cell treatments, because it had raised hopes among some of his patients. Intrigued because I cover “stem cell tourism” in my bioethics class and ask students to evaluate companies, I did a little poking around. I’m questioning what appears to be a strategy to deceive desperate and vulnerable patients by offering stem cell treatments under the guise of participating in clinical trials. The company name isn’t important, because I suspect many others are doing worse. But their strategy, which may well be legal, is unethical.
I had the injected Salk polio vaccine as a toddler, but by the time my sister crunched her pink sugarcube of oral polio vaccine years later, I understood why vaccines were part of life. Protect many and you protect nearly all, because the infection can’t spread. It’s just common sense. Vaccination especially protects kids with chronic diseases, like cystic fibrosis, who can’t be immunized, as well as babies too young to have been immunized. I posted my own “vaccine memories” last July, ending with research revealing a much more likely cause of autism than vaccines. For this post today, I asked a few friends about their memories of the diseases of childhood.
Ebola virus has a mere 7 protein-encoding genes, but the RNA that is its genetic material holds hidden information. And yet this 7-gene “infectious particle,” so streamlined it isn’t even a cell, isn’t even alive, can reduce a human body to a puddle, inner barriers dissolving into nothingness, within days.
How does Ebola virus, so much simpler than influenza, than HIV, do it?