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Genetic Medicine Making Inroads Against Disease
Date:3/18/2008

Advances against PTSD, bone loss and heart woes cited in new research

TUESDAY, March 18 (HealthDay News) -- In fields as varied as heart disease, bone health and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), an explosion of knowledge in genetics is poised to revolutionize medicine, said scientists gathered at a special news conference Tuesday.

The findings are highlighting why some people appear to be more vulnerable to certain illnesses than others -- and how they might be helped.

"People are trying to get a better understanding of disease causes and how genes underlie that," said Dr. Georgia Wiesner, director of the Center for Human Genetics at University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Cleveland. "Genetics and genomics are giving us a better biological understanding and then we can start to develop therapies."

Wiesner and others spoke at a conference to unveil results of a number of studies in the March 19 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, a theme issue focused on genomic medicine.

The identification of genes that are key to disease is greatly advancing diagnostics and scientific research, one expert said.

"There has been a big shift in the practice of genomic medicine. When genes are discovered, this translates very quickly into the availability of genetic tests," noted Dr. Maren T. Scheuner of the nonprofit RAND Corporation in Santa Monica, Calif. "Fifteen years ago, there were 100 genes for which tests were available. Today, there are about 1,500 of these genes. Things are really moving rapidly."

In one of the JAMA studies, scientists found that lowered activity of a gene called paraoxonase 1 (PON1), which is linked to HDL or "good" cholesterol, may be related to a higher risk of developing adverse cardiac events. The gene has both anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activities and had been shown to protect against atherosclerosis ("hardening of
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