Deadlier than all forms of cancer combined, heart disease is the leading cause of death of U.S. women. Sometimes this killer comes with symptoms signaling a potentially deadly problem. Sometimes not. Even when symptoms manifest, the signs in women can be so different from those in men that the symptoms are misdiagnosed or overlooked. This Forum event provided a concise overview of the causes and forms of heart disease in women — and then explored today’s leading-edge prevention and treatment strategies. The inaugural event in The Dr. Lawrence H. and Roberta Cohn Forums, this webcast was in collaboration with The Huffington Post.
In a study published online in The BMJ, research at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital found that greater adherence to the Mediterranean diet correlated with longer telomeres.
Telomeres are repetitive DNA sequences at the ends of chromosomes that get shorter every time a cell divides. These shorter telomeres have been associated with decreases life expectancy and increases risk of aging related disease, while longer telomeres have been linked to longevity. Immaculata De Vivo, Associate professor in the Channing Division at BWH and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health was senior author on this study and Marta Crous Bou, post doctoral fellow in the Channing Division of Network Medicine was the first author.
New research by Alkes Price, Associate professor of Statistical Genetics at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and colleagues focuses on new approaches to characterizing and identifying genetic factors in complex disease.The study outlines a new way of estimating how much variation in a particular trait is due to genetics. Examples looked at in the paper include height, body mass index, and prostate cancer. Geneticists tend to analyze traits like height and BMI because it’s very convenient to assemble huge amounts of data based on the amount that is readily available.
The long-term goal is to identify disease-related genetic associations and then to use that knowledge to understand which genes or pathways are biologically important so that experimental drug targets can be devised, evaluated, and test.
The Catalyst by Jocelyn Kaiser
Harvard University epidemiologist Marc Lipsitch has become a prominent voice in the debate over studies that create potentially dangerous new flu viruses that critics fear could escape from laboratories and cause a pandemic. This past July, Lipsitch organized 18 scientists who crafted a statement calling for governments to curtail these controversial studies until risks and benefits can be thoroughly weighed. It drew an online response a few days later from an opposing alliance of researchers who support the experiments. Still, to Lipsitch‘s surprise, they gave a little ground: They agreed that researchers needed to publicly air the issues. The turn of events highlights how Lipsitch, a one-time philosophy major turned biologist, has recently shown a knack for being in the right place at the right time, with a message and data that have helped shape the conversation.