In another study, Love and her colleagues are attempting to develop an adhesive test strip that will signal whether a woman is at risk for developing breast cancer. A premenopausal woman could cover her nipple with the strip. If the strip picks up biological clues that the woman is at risk, it would change visibly, alerting her and her doctor to the need for further testing and follow-up.
Solid and Strong Bones
In 2006, Yongwon Choi, PhD, professor of pathology and laboratory medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, discovered that targeting a specific gene inhibited bone decay and stimulated bone growth in mice. Within 10 years, he’d like to find out whether altering the action of that gene in humans could prevent or delay the onset of osteoporosis, a disease that affects 10 million Americans — eight million of whom are women, says the National Osteoporosis Foundation.
It appears that inactivating the gene in question (Atp6v0d2) increases bone mass by immobilizing the action of osteoclasts (cells that break down and help resorb bone) and boosting the brawn of osteoblasts (cells that form bone). Current medications do one or the other but not both, Choi says. "If we can find a way to get to our target gene with a drug, we may be able to help the millions of people with osteoporosis."
Having Your Genes Tailored
Scientists are sure that genes influence the risk of type 2 diabetes, but they don’t know which ones. If they did, they believe, they could develop drugs that would alter the action of those genes and help rein in the soaring prevalence of the condition. Leading this needle-in-a-haystack search is Joanne Curran, PhD, a genetic researcher at the Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research, in San Antonio. Curran and her colleagues will spend the next five years analyzing 100 genes believed to play important roles in diabetes to see how they influence blood glucose, insulin production, and body fat.
"Right now, the best prevention we have for diabetes is lifestyle change," Curran says. "But what if you have a genetic predisposition that’s causing your high levels of blood glucose? Then lifestyle changes alone may not help. That’s why we need to find the genes involved, and the DNA variations that affect those genes’ function.
"In 10 years’ time, we’re still not going to know everything, but we’re going to be a lot closer than we are," Curran adds. "There will likely be many more useful treatments on the market that will help prevent or treat diabetes."
More from Your Over-40 Health Guide
Originally published in MORE magazine, May 2008.