Friday, August 22, 2014

Eosinophilic Esophagitis - Scientific Excitement - Part 2 of 2

PART 2  - BEYOND THE GWAS – FUNCTIONAL SIGNIFICANCE FOR EoE?

This is the exciting conclusion to parsing the findings in Kottyan, et al., 2014 (1).  Just in case you missed it or need a refresher, here is a link to PART 1 – BACKGROUND TO UNDERSTAND EoE AND THE RESEARCH FINDINGS.

Brief summary of Part 1
After the researchers compared over 1.5 million regions of the genome between EoE and control subjects, they identified 4 different regions that were strongly associated with EoE.  Going back to the analogy used in Part 1 – the researchers identified the flutes among the cacophony of the warming up orchestra.  Now, they needed to analyze the melodies those flutes were playing – stated biologically, they needed to figure out if any of those flutes (i.e. – regions of DNA identified in the GWAS) played faulty melodies (i.e. – errors in genes getting expressed that may lead to EoE). Just because there is a difference in DNA between EoE patients and those without EoE (controls) doesn’t necessarily mean that it is important biologically – a flute could play the wrong note, but it may harmonize with the intended note (e.g. make no difference to EoE). They were looking for a clear, dissonant “wrong note.” Lead author and researcher on the paper, Dr. Leah Kottyan relayed to me that in this line of work, identifying the differences in DNA is the “easy” part. Now came the “hard” part.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Eosinophilic Esophagitis - Scientific Excitement - Part 1 of 2

The allergy world was abuzz this past week that a major research breakthrough for Eosinophilic Esophagitis (EoE) was published in Nature Genetics (1), spear-headed by Dr. Marc Rothenberg’s lab at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital (follow the lab on FaceBook). For anyone dealing with this devastating allergic disorder, the news was welcome, but what does it all mean? And what could the future hold for people dealing with EoE or allergic disorders more generally?

My hope is to distill some pretty intense science in this two part series – the paper is scientifically very cool, yet very dense! Tackling this paper is not for the faint of heart (myself included)!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Pets are people, too? Allergy edition.

Most of us are familiar with allergies to dogs and cats. But what about our dogs and cats who suffer from allergies?  Here is a question I have about the allergy epidemic - if environmental factors contribute to the allergy epidemic in people, wouldn't we expect our fellow mammalian pets who share our same environment (dogs, cats, etc!) to be increasingly allergic? This little thought was inspired by discovering that a new animal clinic specializing in allergy and ears recently opened in my neck of the woods. Who would've thunk - a specialty clinic for allergies in our pets?! Basic economics dictates that supply and demand strive to be in equilibrium. Clearly there must be a great enough demand...

I honestly do not know the answer, but I hope to explore this idea further. Thoughts? Any vets out there willing to weigh in with knowledge/observations/peer-reviewed evidence? Feel free to comment below or send me a direct email (see contact) Stay tuned...

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Too good to be true science - creating mistrust or assurance?

While science is our greatest sense of hope, it can also be a source of immense frustration. Today I'm reminded that the products of science are influenced by imperfect people, and at least for me, feeling "frustrated" understates things a bit.
Creative commons license: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mad_scientist#mediaviewer/File:Mad_scientist.svg


Thursday, June 19, 2014

Meet Me in Chicago - FARE-bound!

The bags are mostly packed. The itinerary set and in less than 24 hours I can't wait to descend upon that most spectacular city skyline - Chicago!

The biggest non-profit for food allergies, Food Allergy Research and Education (aka - FARE), is hosting their annual conference this weekend. It promises to be a highly educational and inspirational event. If you happen to be there, don't be a stranger. I'm excited to meet a few old friends and a lot of new friends who are all part of this food allergy journey. If you happen to live in and around Chicago, it's still not too late to attend. You can buy tickets at the door.
If you're there from 3pm-4pm on Saturday, please stop by to hear me speak about Making Sense of the Science Behind Food Allergies (although if you miss it, I completely understand. There are so many great options to choose from at the same time!).

Hope to meet you soon! I'll be the science geek wearing the DNA double helix earrings!