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Archive - Oct 23, 2013

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“The Play’s the Thing” at American Society of Human Genetics Annual Meeting in Boston

A provocative new interactive play, “The Drama of DNA: Anticipating the Future with WGS,” was performed by a cast of distinguished genomics professionals on the first evening, Tuesday, October 22, of the 2013 American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG) annual meeting in Boston. The play was hugely popular. It was sold out two weeks after the availability of tickets was announced and at the end of the play many in the audience were asking how they could implement such an innovative approach at their own institution or organization. In the play, fictionalized characters explored a hypothetical research protocol in which the entire DNA codes of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), their “unaffected” siblings and parents, including their pregnant mothers, would be deciphered. The play brought to life the challenges and potential implications of using whole genome sequencing (WGS) in research and medicine, said the co- authors, Lynn W. Bush, Ph.D., M.S., M.A., and Karen Rothenberg, J.D., M.P.A. Dr. Bush, a psychologist and bioethicist, is on the faculty of pediatric clinical genetics at Columbia University. Rothenberg, the founding director of the Law and Health Care program and Professor at the University of Maryland School of Law, is Senior Advisor on Genomics and Society to the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) Director Eric D. Green, M.D., Ph.D., one of the play’s 13 “actors” who performed in the play. Among the other genomics professionals who participated in the play were: Carlos Bustamante, Ph.D., Professor of Genetics, Stanford School of Medicine; Vence Bonham, J.D., Chief of the Education and Involvement Branch of the NHGRI; Jeff Botkin, M.D., M.P.H.., Chief of Medical Ethics, University of Utah Health Care; Malia Fullerton, D.

Gone Today, Hair Tomorrow

Researchers at Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) and collaborators at Durham University in the UK have devised a hair restoration method that can generate new human hair growth, rather than simply redistribute hair from one part of the scalp to another. The approach could significantly expand the use of hair transplantation to women with hair loss, who tend to have insufficient donor hair, as well as to men in the early stages of baldness. The study was published on October 21, 2013 in the online edition of PNAS. “About 90 percent of women with hair loss are not strong candidates for hair transplantation surgery because of insufficient donor hair,” said co-study leader Angela M. Christiano, Ph.D., the Richard and Mildred Rhodebeck Professor of Dermatology and professor of genetics & development at CUMC. “This method offers the possibility of inducing large numbers of hair follicles or rejuvenating existing hair follicles, starting with cells grown from just a few hundred donor hairs. It could make hair transplantation available to individuals with a limited number of follicles, including those with female-pattern hair loss, scarring alopecia, and hair loss due to burns.” According to Dr. Christiano, such patients gain little benefit from existing hair-loss medications, which tend to slow the rate of hair loss but usually do not stimulate robust new hair growth. “Dermal papilla cells give rise to hair follicles, and the notion of cloning hair follicles using inductive dermal papilla cells has been around for 40 years or so,” said co-study leader Colin Jahoda, Ph.D., professor of stem cell sciences at Durham University, England, and co-director of North East England Stem Cell Institute, who is one of the early founders of the field.