Genetic Testing, Peanut Allergies (Abstract Science: April 30 – May 4)
Geneticist Magdalena Skipper becomes the first woman to head Nature, a new blood test for diagnosing peanut allergies and a major milestone in consumer health empowerment.
(Nature, 5/2/2018, Holly Else)
For the first time in its 149-year history, Nature will have a female editor. Geneticist Magdalena Skipper will become the eighth editor of the journal. The announcement comes after a lengthy selection process. Skipper has worked at Nature journals for more than 15 years. She first joined the publisher in 2001 as an editor of Nature Reviews Genetics, later becoming the journal’s chief editor. During her tenure as Nature’s editor-in-chief, Skipper says she wants to continue the work that the journal does to ensure that scientific findings are reproducible and robust, particularly in the age of big data. She would also like Nature to focus more on early-career researchers. Skipper has a PhD in genetics from the University of Cambridge, UK, and had a short stint as postdoctoral researcher at the Imperial Cancer Research Fund in London.
(The Conversation, 5/3/2018, Katherine Drabiak)
Genetic testing kits are everywhere! 23andMe, one of the most popular services, recently received FDA authorization to tell customers whether they carry variants of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. Women who carry these genes have an increased risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer, while the men who carry them have an increased risk of prostate cancer. According to the FDA, most mutations that would increase an individual’s risk are not detected by the test, including mutations that may occur in other patient populations. Health empowerment requires a much broader conversation of what patients – both with and without a BRCA mutation – can do about their risk of cancer.
(UPI Health News, 5/3/2018, Allen Cone)
Chances are you know someone with a peanut allergy. Whether it is a student in your child’s classroom or a co-worker, peanut allergies are the most common one for foods, ahead of milk and shellfish, and have a potentially fatal reaction. Researchers at the Medical Research Council in Britain developed a new blood test for peanut allergy diagnosis is 98 percent accurate, safe and comes at a low cost. About 3 million people in the United States report being allergic to peanuts, according to the American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology. To diagnose a peanut allergy, medical personnel give legume substances to patients in incrementally larger doses, testing for a reaction. The method, however, carries a risk of severe, life-threatening allergic reaction, in addition to false-positive results. The new test concentrates on mast cells, which help trigger allergic reactions. They recognize an antibody called immunoglobulin in plasma and, in allergic patients, produce biomarkers associated with allergic reactions. The researchers say the test could also be used to monitor for allergic response during drug evaluation and clinical trials, though they are focused on other food allergies first.
—Compiled by Social Media Specialist Jillian Scola