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Human Genetics Faculty & Research News

Vanyukov interprets new study findings and their relationship to the gateway drug theory

THE ATLANTIC - With adolescent marijuana use stagnant and alcohol and cigarette use delayed and declining among minors, it might be time to leave the popular understanding of the gateway drug in the past. “Gateway theory only relates to initiation of drug use, not progression to abuse," says HUGEN's Michael Vanyukov. Instead, he suggests an alternate theory of substance abuse known as the common-liability theory.   

Gollin joins Jewish Healthcare Foundation Board of Trustees

Congratulations to HUGEN's SUSANNE GOLLIN for being invited to join the Jewish Healthcare Foundation Board of Trustees next year. They are meeting next month to explore the question: "What are the appropriate roles, the responsible mandates and interventions, of healthcare governing boards in guaranteeing the safety of the hospitals and systems that they oversee?"  

Parker comments on new study that shows downside of medical crowdfunding

REUTERS - While crowdfunding platforms can fill insurance gaps, helping patients pay for essential care and avoid medical debt, they are also being used to raise large sums of money for ineffective and experimental treatments, a new study suggests. The study muddies the issue by mixing clearly unproven therapies with treatments that are being tested in clinical trials, said HUGEN's Lisa Parker.  

Urban weighs in on discovery of molecule that gives living tissues their flexibility

MIT NEWS - The stretchiness that allows living tissues to expand, contract, stretch, and bend throughout a lifetime is the result of a protein molecule called tropoelastin. HUGEN's ZSOLT URBAN, says “elastin is necessary for the proper working of stretchy organs such as blood vessels, heart valves, and lungs. However, the full structure of tropoelastin was unknown until now."  

Minster discusses examining genetic susceptibility to obesity in Samoa (video)

HUGEN's RYAN MINSTER talks about how his interest in body composition and obesity led him to Samoa. "Polynesians and Micronesians have some of the highest rates of overweight and obesity in the world." He and his lab explored genetic factors that could be leading to increases in weight in a sample of Samoans.    

Pitt's LifeX biotechnology center starts with $2M grant from Hillman Foundation

TRIB LIVE – LifeX will tackle some of medicine’s biggest challenges for its initial focus. They announced a $2 million grant from the Henry L. Hillman Foundation to help it get off the ground. “The LifeX team is proud to have the Hillman Foundation's support as we continue this longstanding legacy of facilitating cures to the most devastating and prevalent causes of suffering and death”, says CEO of LifeX and HUGEN’s DIETRICH STEPHAN. 

HuGen alumna's creation aims to reduce radiation exposure from stress tests

PITTWIRE - Doctoral alumna MALIHA ZAHID ( HUGEN  '09) aims to reduce the amount of radiation that patients are exposed to when undergoing diagnostic imaging. Her creation, to be used during cardiac stress tests, was a previous Pitt PInCh winner.  

Celedon tells working parents, take a deep breath: preschool, daycare do not raise asthma risk

UCSF NEWS - A study that involved combing through more than 50 years of data to assess the link between asthma and daycare and preschool attendance may provide welcome reassurance to working parents. Early child care does not boost children’s risk for developing this common respiratory disease, according to the study led by researchers including JUAN CELEDON, EPI and HUGEN professor.   

Nimgaonkar's research sheds light on the risks and causes of schizophrenia

WKSU-FM - No one knows what causes schizophrenia. It’s a devastating mental disorder that affects more than 3 million Americans. And while most people with schizophrenia can be treated, many don’t respond to medications. New research may find ways to help them. HUGEN’s VISHWAJIT NIMGAONKAR heads a team of researchers that’s looking at the genetic underpinnings of schizophrenia. 

Parker praises Personal Genetics Education Project

GENOME - "The project [tries to] present that there's a blending of genetics and environmental factors responsible for most anything we care about," HUGEN'S LISA PARKER says of the fact that the project aims to see a broader picture of how genes and environment can interact.   

Pandley comments on how FUS helps miRNA silence genes

ALZFORUM - The latest function of the ALS-related protein FUS, is gene silencing mediated by micro RNAs. HUGEN’s UDAI PANDEY finds the study interesting because it reveals how mutations in FUS could have even more widespread consequences than previously thought. He added that the authors’ finding that a C. elegans homolog of FUS facilitates miRNA silencing indicates the pathway is highly conserved. 

Team to discover 15 new genes that shape our face

ASPPH FRIDAY LETTER - DNA determines what we look like, including our facial features. But first, researchers need to figure out which genes in our DNA are responsible for specific characteristics of our face. HUGEN’s SETH WEINBERG says, “In the past, scientists selected specific features, including the distance between the eyes or the width of the mouth. They would then look for a connection between this feature and many genes.” HUGEN's JOHN SH... 

Stephan named Life Sciences PA's Thought Leader of the Year

Honoring an individual who has a clearly articulated and enacted vision for advancing the scientific and business prowess of Pennsylvania, HUGEN's DIETRICH STEPHAN was honored with the 2017 award.   

Weinberg and team identify new genes responsible for facial features

GEN NEWS – Scientists say they have identified fifteen genes that determine our facial features. HUGEN’s SETH WEINBERG describes the process before he and his team took on a new approach. “We're basically looking for needles in a haystack… This [approach] has already led to the identification of a number of genes but, of course, the results are limited because only a small set of features are selected and tested."  

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