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Personalised medicine: from home genetic testing to biotech research

I was surprised to learn that a well-known home genetic testing company had transformed into a biotech firm. They are now conducting research in immuno-oncology and branching into various fields such as cancer, cardiovascular, and neurology. Why did they make this change? Apparently, this was a "logical" transition that they had planned to leverage the millions of people's genetic data they had collected. This data can help identify patterns in our DNA to improve our understanding of human health and diseases. The biotech industry is increasingly embracing cell and gene therapies to provide customised treatments whereby therapies are tailored to an individual's unique genetic makeup. Personalised medicine uses a person's genetic profile to help inform decisions to help prevent, diagnose, treat, and even halt disease progression. What do you think about this transition and the use of consumer health data? Further reading:
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Personalised nutrition: the good, the bad and the ugly...

Have you heard of personalised nutrition (PN) Despite gaining popularity in recent years, PN has been around for at least 40 years. In the past decade, the commercial PN sector has grown due to investor interest and affordable direct-to-consumer (D2C) testing devices. I’m sure you’ve seen PN ads on social media, especially in the past month. THE GOOD Improved health outcomes: PN tailors your diet to your genes, gut microbiome, lifestyle, and goals, leading to better weight management, reduced risk of chronic diseases, and improved energy levels. Enhanced motivation and adherence: The Food4Me study found that personalised dietary advice based on eating habits motivated positive changes in diet and lifestyle. A deeper understanding of your body: PN helps you make informed choices about your eating habits based on your health metrics and food intake. THE BAD Accessibility and cost: Personalised nutrition plans, which involve advanced technologies, face-to-face consultations with nutrition

How one drug can treat multiple conditions

Sometimes, a drug that works for one condition can also have benefits for another one because the human body has many intricate mechanisms and processes—for example, Science’s 2023 breakthrough of the year - GLP-1 agonists. When researchers develop a drug, they focus on a specific target, like managing blood sugar in diabetes. But sometimes, these drugs can work on other targets, too. Semaglutide (a GLP-1 agonist), for example, not only boosts insulin production but also reduces appetite and slows digestion, leading to weight loss with some ‘manageable’ side effects. This unexpected benefit opened the door for its approval in obesity treatment. After realising this breakthrough, doctors started prescribing Semaglutide off-label as a weight loss medication. This unexpected benefit opened the door for its approval in obesity treatment. Off-label prescribing: why? Even for approved uses, not every drug works for every patient. Doctors, with their clinical expertise, can sometimes prescrib

Why do some FDA-approved drugs get a Black Box Warning (BBW)?

Last Friday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved two gene therapies for sickle cell disease. This marks a significant milestone as one of these therapies is the first treatment in the United States that utilizes the CRISPR gene editing technology. Sickle cell disease is an inherited blood disorder where the body produces abnormal, sickle-shaped hemoglobin, causing red blood cells to have difficulty carrying oxygen to the body's tissues. Lyfgenia and Casgevy are two different approaches. Lyfgenia delivers modified genes into the body by disabled viruses, while Casgevy uses molecular "scissors" to remove faulty gene parts and either disable or replace them with normal DNA strands. Even though both drugs were approved on the same day, Lyfgenia was given a Black Box Warning (BBW). A BBW is the highest warning that can be issued for a drug by the FDA, indicating a severe risk to patient health linked to the drug. This is highlighted in a black box on the medic

Time for a change.

Twenty-twenty has been incredibly difficult for everyone, especially when it comes to remaining productive and enthusiastic about your work. At least this has been the case for me, since the beginning of 2021. In 2020, work commitments took up my brain space and made me lose all enthusiasm for my blog, “Crystals and Catalysts” and science writing in general. I would be so exhausted by the weekend I wouldn’t have the energy to focus on anything else.  After speaking to a couple of friends, I felt that I needed to have a clear focus on what I am communicating and who I am communicating to. Thanks to their advice and encouraging words, I am now working on a new project which has a clearer focus and it is something that I enjoy reading and writing about. This doesn’t mean “Crystals and Catalysts” is going anywhere, it’s still my ‘beloved first-born’ but sometimes you need to try something new.  So you will be seeing some changes to this account (including the social media handles!) and a r

Red Light For Declining Eyesight | ONE PARAGRAPH SCIENCE

A study published earlier this year in The Journals of Gerontology found that staring at a deep red light (of a specific wavelength) for three minutes a day can significantly improve declining eyesight that comes as a result of the ageing process. Over 40, our vision starts to decline and our retina starts to age. Our retina’s photoreceptor cells are rich in mitochondria as they have high energy demands. Subsequently, this results in the retina ageing faster than other organs in the body and losing most of its photoreceptor function over life. To try to prevent or delay this natural phenomenon, Professor Jeffery and his team at University College London (UCL) focused on the sensitivity the retina’s photoreceptors. Photoreceptors are made up of cones which mediate colour vision and rods which provide peripheral vision and adapt vision in low/dim light. They recruited 24 people (12 male, 12 female) aged between 28 and 72 who had no ocular disease. They were all tested for the sensiti

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Six Year Blog Anniversary

I haven't been very active on my blog this year; nevertheless, it has still been a significant year in my career. All of the skills and experiences I've developed over the past six years helped me start my science communication career.  It certainly wasn’t a comfortable journey, as are most career paths. Regarding my career: To launch my science communication career, I needed to build a portfolio of my writing, which is the blog you are reading right now. It helped bolster my CV when I was a fresh bachelor’s graduate. From there, I dabbled into medical communications, decided it wasn’t for me, before going back to university to study a science communication master’s degree.    While you don’t necessarily need a master’s degree in science communication, I felt I needed it to solidify my knowledge in the field. And that’s what it did and more.    Getting into a science communications role was an experience. I got stuck in a catch-22 situation, and it got to a point where I just w

2020 & Pandemic Guest post Callout | Instapost

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