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1.  A comprehensive analysis of deletions, multiplications, and copy number variations in PARK2 
Neurology  2010;75(13):1189-1194.
To perform a comprehensive population genetic study of PARK2. PARK2 mutations are associated with juvenile parkinsonism, Alzheimer disease, cancer, leprosy, and diabetes mellitus, yet ironically, there has been no comprehensive study of PARK2 in control subjects; and to resolve controversial association of PARK2 heterozygous mutations with Parkinson disease (PD) in a well-powered study.
We studied 1,686 control subjects (mean age 66.1 ± 13.1 years) and 2,091 patients with PD (mean onset age 58.3 ± 12.1 years). We tested for PARK2 deletions/multiplications/copy number variations (CNV) using semiquantitative PCR and multiplex ligation-dependent probe amplification, and validated the mutations by real-time quantitative PCR. Subjects were tested for point mutations previously. Association with PD was tested as PARK2 main effect, and in combination with known PD risk factors: SNCA, MAPT, APOE, smoking, and coffee intake.
A total of 0.95% of control subjects and 0.86% of patients carried a heterozygous CNV mutation. CNV mutations found in 16 control subjects were all in exons 1–4, sparing exons that encode functionally critical protein domains. Thirteen patients had 2 CNV mutations, 5 had 1 CNV and 1 point mutation, and 18 had 1 CNV mutation. Mutations found in patients spanned exons 2–9. In whites, having 1 CNV was not associated with increased risk (odds ratio 1.05, p = 0.89) or earlier onset of PD (64.7 ± 8.6 heterozygous vs 58.5 ± 11.8 normal).
This comprehensive population genetic study in control subjects fills the void for a PARK2 reference dataset. There is no compelling evidence for association of heterozygous PARK2 mutations, by themselves or in combination with known risk factors, with PD.
= autosomal recessive juvenile parkinsonism;
= confidence interval;
= copy number variation;
= moving average plots;
= multiplex ligation-dependent probe amplification;
= NeuroGenetics Research Consortium;
= odds ratio;
= Parkinson disease.
PMCID: PMC3013490  PMID: 20876472
2.  Mild cognitive impairment in clinical care 
Neurology  2010;75(5):425-431.
To assess how neurologists view mild cognitive impairment (MCI) as a clinical diagnosis and how they treat patients with mild cognitive symptoms.
Members of the American Academy of Neurology with an aging, dementia, or behavioral neurology practice focus were surveyed by self-administered questionnaire.
Survey respondents were 420 providers (response rate 48%), and 88% reported at least monthly encounters with patients experiencing mild cognitive symptoms. Most respondents recognize MCI as a clinical diagnosis (90%) and use its diagnostic code for billing purposes (70%). When seeing these patients, most respondents routinely provide counseling on physical (78%) and mental exercise (75%) and communicate about dementia risk (63%); fewer provide information on support services (27%) or a written summary of findings (15%). Most (70%) prescribe cholinesterase inhibitors at least sometimes for this population, with memantine (39%) and other agents (e.g., vitamin E) prescribed less frequently. Respondents endorsed several benefits of a diagnosis of MCI: 1) involving the patient in planning for the future (87%); 2) motivating risk reduction activities (85%); 3) helping with financial planning (72%); and 4) prescribing medications (65%). Some respondents noted drawbacks, including 1) too difficult to diagnose (23%); 2) better described as early Alzheimer disease (21%); and 3) diagnosis can cause unnecessary worry (20%).
Patients with mild cognitive symptoms are commonly seen by neurologists, who view MCI as a useful diagnostic category. Information and treatments provided to patients with MCI vary significantly, suggesting a need for practice guidelines and further research on clinical decision-making with this population.
= age-associated memory impairment;
= American Academy of Neurology;
= Alzheimer disease;
= cognitive impairment, no dementia;
= Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition;
= mild cognitive impairment;
= not otherwise specified.
PMCID: PMC2918467  PMID: 20679636
3.  Breast-Cancer Risk in Families with Mutations in PALB2 
The New England journal of medicine  2014;371(6):497-506.
Germline loss-of-function mutations in PALB2 are known to confer a predisposition to breast cancer. However, the lifetime risk of breast cancer that is conferred by such mutations remains unknown.
We analyzed the risk of breast cancer among 362 members of 154 families who had deleterious truncating, splice, or deletion mutations in PALB2. The age-specific breast-cancer risk for mutation carriers was estimated with the use of a modified segregation-analysis approach that allowed for the effects of PALB2 genotype and residual familial aggregation.
The risk of breast cancer for female PALB2 mutation carriers, as compared with the general population, was eight to nine times as high among those younger than 40 years of age, six to eight times as high among those 40 to 60 years of age, and five times as high among those older than 60 years of age. The estimated cumulative risk of breast cancer among female mutation carriers was 14% (95% confidence interval [CI], 9 to 20) by 50 years of age and 35% (95% CI, 26 to 46) by 70 years of age. Breast-cancer risk was also significantly influenced by birth cohort (P < 0.001) and by other familial factors (P = 0.04). The absolute breast-cancer risk for PALB2 female mutation carriers by 70 years of age ranged from 33% (95% CI, 25 to 44) for those with no family history of breast cancer to 58% (95% CI, 50 to 66) for those with two or more first-degree relatives with breast cancer at 50 years of age.
Loss-of-function mutations in PALB2 are an important cause of hereditary breast cancer, with respect both to the frequency of cancer-predisposing mutations and to the risk associated with them. Our data suggest the breast-cancer risk for PALB2 mutation carriers may overlap with that for BRCA2 mutation carriers. (Funded by the European Research Council and others.)
PMCID: PMC4157599  PMID: 25099575
5.  Understandings of Basic Genetics in the United States: Results from a National Survey of Black and White Men and Women 
Public Health Genomics  2010;13(7-8):467-476.
This study examined understandings of basic genetic concepts among Americans.
In a national telephone survey of 1,200 Americans with equal representation among Black and White men and women, subjects responded to 8 items developed by a multidisciplinary team of experts that assessed understanding of basic concepts in multiple domains, including inheritance, genetics and race, and genetics and behavior.
Over 70% of subjects responded correctly on items about the genetic similarity of identical twins and siblings. Less than half of subjects responded correctly on all other items. Understanding of genetics was lowest in three areas: types/locations of genes in the body (29% correct), a genetic basis for race (25% correct), and the influence of single genes on behaviors (24% correct). Logistic regression models controlling for age and education showed some differences by race and gender on specific items but also showed that understandings are generally similar across these groups.
Misunderstandings about genetics are common among Black and White American men and women. Responses appear to reflect personal experiences, group values and interests. These findings emphasize the need for initiatives to improve the public's genetic literacy as well as a need for further investigation in this domain.
PMCID: PMC3025896  PMID: 20203477
Gender; Genetic knowledge; Race; Survey; Understanding
6.  Disclosure of APOE Genotype for Risk of Alzheimer's Disease 
The New England journal of medicine  2009;361(3):245-254.
The apolipoprotein E (APOE) genotype provides information on the risk of Alzheimer's disease, but the genotyping of patients and their family members has been discouraged. We examined the effect of genotype disclosure in a prospective, randomized, controlled trial.
We randomly assigned 162 asymptomatic adults who had a parent with Alzheimer's disease to receive the results of their own APOE genotyping (disclosure group) or not to receive such results (nondisclosure group). We measured symptoms of anxiety, depression, and test-related distress 6 weeks, 6 months, and 1 year after disclosure or nondisclosure.
There were no significant differences between the two groups in changes in time-averaged measures of anxiety (4.5 in the disclosure group and 4.4 in the nondisclosure group, P = 0.84), depression (8.8 and 8.7, respectively; P = 0.98), or test-related distress (6.9 and 7.5, respectively; P=0.61). Secondary comparisons between the non-disclosure group and a disclosure subgroup of subjects carrying the APOE ε4 allele (which is associated with increased risk) also revealed no significant differences. However, the ε4-negative subgroup had a significantly lower level of test-related distress than did the ε4-positive subgroup (P=0.01). Subjects with clinically meaningful changes in psychological outcomes were distributed evenly among the nondisclosure group and the ε4-positive and ε4-negative subgroups. Baseline scores for anxiety and depression were strongly associated with post-disclosure scores of these measures (P<0.001 for both comparisons).
The disclosure of APOE genotyping results to adult children of patients with Alzheimer's disease did not result in significant short-term psychological risks. Test-related distress was reduced among those who learned that they were APOE ε4–negative. Persons with high levels of emotional distress before undergoing genetic testing were more likely to have emotional difficulties after disclosure. ( number, NCT00571025.)
PMCID: PMC2778270  PMID: 19605829
7.  Intravenous infusions of ifosfamide/mesna and perturbation of warfarin anticoagulant control. 
Postgraduate Medical Journal  1990;66(780):860-861.
We report three patients who had serious disturbance of anticoagulant control while receiving ifosfamide/mesna-containing cytotoxic chemotherapy in association with warfarin. In view of the likely biological potentiation of warfarin by ifosfamide/mesna, close monitoring of anticoagulant control should be performed during the co-administration of these drugs.
PMCID: PMC2429713  PMID: 2129174
8.  Fertility preservation in reproductive-age women facing gonadotoxic treatments 
Current Oncology  2015;22(4):e294-e304.
Advancements in the treatments for cancer and autoimmune and other hematologic conditions continue to improve survival and cure rates. Despite those changes, various gonadotoxic agents and other treatments can still compromise the future fertility of many women. Progress in medical and surgical reproductive technologies has helped to offset the reproductive consequences of the use of gonadotoxic therapies, and allows for future fertility and normal pregnancy.
A review of the literature was performed to outline the pathophysiology of gonadotoxicity from various treatments. The success of fertility preservation, fertility sparing, and cryopreservation options are reviewed. Barriers and facilitators to referral and oncofertility treatment in Canada are also outlined.
According to the quality of the evidence, recommendations are made for fertility assessment, patient referral, cryopreservation, and other assisted reproductive technologies.
To ensure ongoing fertility in women undergoing gonadotoxic treatments, assisted reproductive technologies can be combined with a multidisciplinary approach to patient assessment and referral.
PMCID: PMC4530827  PMID: 26300680
Oncofertility; fertility preservation; cryopreservation; gonadotoxicity; young adults; adolescents
9.  Explaining, not just predicting, drives interest in personal genomics 
Genome Medicine  2015;7(1):74.
There is a widespread assumption that risk prediction is the major driver of customer interest in personal genomic testing (PGT). However, some customers may also be motivated by finding out whether their existing diseases have a genetic etiology. We evaluated the impact of an existing medical diagnosis on customer interest in condition-specific results from PGT.
Using a prospective online survey of PGT customers, we measured customer interest prior to receiving PGT results for 11 health conditions, and examined the association between interest and personal medical history of these conditions using logistic regression.
We analyzed data from 1,538 PGT customers, mean age 48.7 years, 61 % women, 90 % White, and 47 % college educated. The proportion of customers who were ‘very interested’ in condition-specific PGT varied considerably, from 28 % for ulcerative colitis to 68% for heart disease. After adjusting for demographic and personal characteristics including family history, having a diagnosis of the condition itself was significantly associated with interest in genetic testing for risk of that condition, with odds ratios ranging from 2.07 (95 % CI 1.28-3.37) for diabetes to 19.99 (95 % CI 4.57-87.35) for multiple sclerosis.
PGT customers are particularly interested in genetic markers for their existing medical conditions, suggesting that the value of genetic testing is not only predictive, but also explanatory.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13073-015-0188-5) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4533947  PMID: 26269719
10.  Amyloid imaging, risk disclosure and Alzheimer’s disease: ethical and practical issues 
PET ligands that bind with high specificity to amyloid plaques represent a major breakthrough in Alzheimer’s disease (AD) research. Amyloid neuroimaging is now approved by the US FDA to aid in the diagnosis of AD, and is being used to identify amyloid-positive but asymptomatic individuals for secondary AD prevention trials. The use of amyloid neuroimaging in preclinical populations raises important ethical and practical challenges, including determining appropriate uses of this technology, evaluating the potential benefits and harms of disclosing results, and communicating effectively about testing with patients and family members. Emerging policy issues also require consideration (e.g., legal safeguards for biomarker-positive individuals). Further research is needed to inform effective and ethical implementation and regulation of amyloid imaging.
PMCID: PMC4498486  PMID: 26167204
11.  Quantitative localisation of synaptic and extrasynaptic GABAA receptor subunits on hippocampal pyramidal cells by freeze-fracture replica immunolabelling 
The European journal of neuroscience  2010;32(11):1868-1888.
Hippocampal CA1 pyramidal cells, which receive γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA)ergic input from at least 18 types of presynaptic neuron, express 14 subunits of the pentameric GABAA receptor. The relative contribution of any subunit to synaptic and extrasynaptic receptors influences the dynamics of GABA and drug actions. Synaptic receptors mediate phasic GABA-evoked conductance and extrasynaptic receptors contribute to a tonic conductance. We used freeze-fracture replica-immunogold labelling, a sensitive quantitative immunocytochemical method, to detect synaptic and extrasynaptic pools of the alpha1, alpha2 and beta3 subunits. Antibodies to the cytoplasmic loop of the subunits showed immunogold particles concentrated on distinct clusters of intramembrane particles (IMPs) on the cytoplasmic face of the plasma membrane on the somata, dendrites and axon initial segments, with an abrupt decrease in labelling at the edge of the IMP cluster. Neuroligin-2, a GABAergic synapse-specific adhesion molecule, co-labels all beta3 subunit-rich IMP clusters, therefore we considered them synapses. Double-labelling for two subunits showed that virtually all somatic synapses contain the alpha1, alpha2 and beta3 subunits. The extrasynaptic plasma membrane of the somata, dendrites and dendritic spines showed low-density immunolabelling. Synaptic labelling densities on somata for the alpha1, alpha2 and beta3 subunits were 78–132, 94 and 79 times higher than on the extrasynaptic membranes, respectively. As GABAergic synapses occupy 0.72% of the soma surface, the fraction of synaptic labelling was 33–48 (alpha1), 40 (alpha2) and 36 (beta3)% of the total somatic surface immunolabelling. Assuming similar antibody access to all receptors, about 60% of these subunits are in extrasynaptic receptors.
PMCID: PMC4487817  PMID: 21073549
dendritic spine; electron microscope; GABAergic synapse; hippocampus; immunoreactivity; inhibition
12.  Distinct Dendritic Arborization and In Vivo Firing Patterns of Parvalbumin-Expressing Basket Cells in the Hippocampal Area CA3 
Hippocampal CA3 area generates temporally structured network activity such as sharp waves and gamma and theta oscillations. Parvalbumin-expressing basket cells, making GABAergic synapses onto cell bodies and proximal dendrites of pyramidal cells, control pyramidal cell activity and participate in network oscillations in slice preparations, but their roles in vivo remain to be tested. We have recorded the spike timing of parvalbumin-expressing basket cells in areas CA2/3 of anesthetized rats in relation to CA3 putative pyramidal cell firing and activity locally and in area CA1. During theta oscillations, CA2/3 basket cells fired on the same phase as putative pyramidal cells, but, surprisingly, significantly later than downstream CA1 basket cells. This indicates a distinct modulation of CA3 and CA1 pyramidal cells by basket cells, which receive different inputs. We observed unexpectedly large dendritic arborization of CA2/3 basket cells in stratum lacunosum moleculare (33% of length, 29% surface, and 24% synaptic input from a total of ~35,000), different from the dendritic arborizations of CA1 basket cells. Area CA2/3 basket cells fired phase locked to both CA2/3 and CA1 gamma oscillations, and increased firing during CA1 sharp waves, thus supporting the role of CA3 networks in the generation of gamma oscillations and sharp waves. However, during ripples associated with sharp waves, firing of CA2/3 basket cells was phase locked only to local but not CA1 ripples, suggesting the independent generation of fast oscillations by basket cells in CA1 and CA2/3. The distinct spike timing of basket cells during oscillations in CA1 and CA2/3 suggests differences in synaptic inputs paralleled by differences in dendritic arborizations.
PMCID: PMC4473055  PMID: 23595740
13.  Could giant basin-forming impacts have killed Martian dynamo? 
Geophysical Research Letters  2014;41(22):8006-8012.
The observed strong remanent crustal magnetization at the surface of Mars suggests an active dynamo in the past and ceased to exist around early to middle Noachian era, estimated by examining remagnetization strengths in extant and buried impact basins. We investigate whether the Martian dynamo could have been killed by these large basin-forming impacts, via numerical simulation of subcritical dynamos with impact-induced thermal heterogeneity across the core-mantle boundary. We find that subcritical dynamos are prone to the impacts centered on locations within 30° of the equator but can easily survive those at higher latitudes. Our results further suggest that magnetic timing places a strong constraint on postimpact polar reorientation, e.g., a minimum 16° polar reorientation is needed if Utopia is the dynamo killer.
PMCID: PMC4459199  PMID: 26074641
Martian dynamo; giant impacts; thermal heterogeneity; numerical simulation
14.  Community-based care vs. centralised hospitalisation for MDR-TB patients KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa 
KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa a predominantly rural province with high burdens of TB, MDR-TB and HIV infection.
To determine the most effective model of care by comparing MDR-TB treatment outcomes at community-based sites with traditional care at a central, specialised hospital.
A non-randomised observational prospective cohort study comparing community-based and centralised care. Patients at community-based sites were closer to home, had easier access to care and home-based care was available from treatment initiation.
Four community-based sites treated 736 patients, while 813 were treated at the centralised hospital (a total of 1549 patients). Overall, 75% were HIV co-infected (community: 76% vs. hospitalised: 73%, p=0.45) and 86% received antiretroviral therapy (community: 91% vs. hospitalised: 82%, p=0.22).
In multivariate analysis MDR-TB patients were more likely to have a successful treatment outcome if they were treated at a community-based site (adjusted OR=1.43, p=0.01). However, there was heterogeneity in outcomes at the four community-based sites, with Site 1 demonstrating that home-based care was associated with increased treatment success of 72% compared with success of between 52 - 60% at the other three sites.
Community-based care for patients with MDR-TB was more effective than care in a central, specialised hospital. Home-based care further increased treatment success.
PMCID: PMC4324454  PMID: 25574914
Models of care; HIV; outcomes
15.  The formation of a large summertime Saharan dust plume: Convective and synoptic-scale analysis 
Haboobs are dust storms produced by the spreading of evaporatively cooled air from thunderstorms over dusty surfaces and are a major dust uplift process in the Sahara. In this study observations, reanalysis, and a high-resolution simulation using the Weather Research and Forecasting model are used to analyze the multiscale dynamics which produced a long-lived (over 2 days) Saharan mesoscale convective system (MCS) and an unusually large haboob in June 2010. An upper level trough and wave on the subtropical jet 5 days prior to MCS initiation produce a precipitating tropical cloud plume associated with a disruption of the Saharan heat low and moistening of the central Sahara. The restrengthening Saharan heat low and a Mediterranean cold surge produce a convergent region over the Hoggar and Aïr Mountains, where small convective systems help further increase boundary layer moisture. Emerging from this region the MCS has intermittent triggering of new cells, but later favorable deep layer shear produces a mesoscale convective complex. The unusually large size of the resulting dust plume (over 1000 km long) is linked to the longevity and vigor of the MCS, an enhanced pressure gradient due to lee cyclogenesis near the Atlas Mountains, and shallow precipitating clouds along the northern edge of the cold pool. Dust uplift processes identified are (1) strong winds near the cold pool front, (2) enhanced nocturnal low-level jet within the aged cold pool, and (3) a bore formed by the cold pool front on the nocturnal boundary layer.
PMCID: PMC4379907  PMID: 25844277
WRF; haboob; MCS; Sahara; dust; convection
16.  Associations between self-referral and health behavior responses to genetic risk information 
Genome Medicine  2015;7(1):10.
Studies examining whether genetic risk information about common, complex diseases can motivate individuals to improve health behaviors and advance planning have shown mixed results. Examining the influence of different study recruitment strategies may help reconcile inconsistencies.
Secondary analyses were conducted on data from the REVEAL study, a series of randomized clinical trials examining the impact of genetic susceptibility testing for Alzheimer’s disease (AD). We tested whether self-referred participants (SRPs) were more likely than actively recruited participants (ARPs) to report health behavior and advance planning changes after AD risk and APOE genotype disclosure.
Of 795 participants with known recruitment status, 546 (69%) were self-referred and 249 (31%) had been actively recruited. SRPs were younger, less likely to identify as African American, had higher household incomes, and were more attentive to AD than ARPs (all P < 0.01). They also dropped out of the study before genetic risk disclosure less frequently (26% versus 41%, P < 0.001). Cohorts did not differ in their likelihood of reporting a change to at least one health behavior 6 weeks and 12 months after genetic risk disclosure, nor in intentions to change at least one behavior in the future. However, interaction effects were observed where ε4-positive SRPs were more likely than ε4-negative SRPs to report changes specifically to mental activities (38% vs 19%, p < 0.001) and diets (21% vs 12%, p = 0.016) six weeks post-disclosure, whereas differences between ε4-positive and ε4-negative ARPs were not evident for mental activities (15% vs 21%, p = 0.413) or diets (8% versus 16%, P = 0.190). Similarly, ε4-positive participants were more likely than ε4-negative participants to report intentions to change long-term care insurance among SRPs (20% vs 5%, p < 0.001), but not ARPs (5% versus 9%, P = 0.365).
Individuals who proactively seek AD genetic risk assessment are more likely to undergo testing and use results to inform behavior changes than those who respond to genetic testing offers. These results demonstrate how the behavioral impact of genetic risk information may vary according to the models by which services are provided, and suggest that how participants are recruited into translational genomics research can influence findings.
Trial registration NCT00089882 and NCT00462917
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13073-014-0124-0) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4311425  PMID: 25642295
17.  Emerging issues in public health genomics 
This review highlights emerging areas of interest in public health genomics. First, recent advances in newborn screening (NBS) are described, with a focus on practice and policy implications of current and future efforts to expand NBS programs (e.g., via next-generation sequencing). Next, research findings from the rapidly progressing field of epigenetics and epigenomics are detailed, highlighting ways in which our emerging understanding in these areas could guide future intervention and research efforts in public health. We close by considering various ethical, legal and social issues posed by recent developments in public health genomics; these include policies to regulate access to personal genomic information; the need to enhance genetic literacy in both health professionals and the public; and challenges in ensuring that the benefits (and burdens) from genomic discoveries and applications are equitably distributed. Needs for future genomics research that integrates across basic and social sciences are also noted.
PMCID: PMC4229014  PMID: 25184533
Newborn screening; epigenetics; epigenomics; bioethics; health education
18.  Increased response to morphine in mice lacking protein kinase C epsilon 
Genes, brain, and behavior  2006;6(4):329-338.
The protein kinase C (PKC) family of serine–threonine kinases has been implicated in behavioral responses to opiates, but little is known about the individual PKC isozymes involved. Here, we show that mice lacking PKCε have increased sensitivity to the rewarding effects of morphine, revealed as the expression of place preference and intravenous self-administration at very low doses of morphine that do not evoke place preference or self-administration in wild-type mice. The PKCε null mice also show prolonged maintenance of morphine place preference in response to repeated testing when compared with wild-type mice. The supraspinal analgesic effects of morphine are enhanced in PKCε null mice, and the development of tolerance to the spinal analgesic effects of morphine is delayed. The density of μ-opioid receptors and their coupling to G-proteins are normal. These studies identify PKCε as a key regulator of opiate sensitivity in mice.
PMCID: PMC4264050  PMID: 16899053
Analgesia; opioid; PKC; place preference; self-administration
19.  Design, methods, and participant characteristics of the Impact of Personal Genomics (PGen) Study, a prospective cohort study of direct-to-consumer personal genomic testing customers 
Genome Medicine  2014;6(12):96.
Designed in collaboration with 23andMe and Pathway Genomics, the Impact of Personal Genomics (PGen) Study serves as a model for academic-industry partnership and provides a longitudinal dataset for studying psychosocial, behavioral, and health outcomes related to direct-to-consumer personal genomic testing (PGT). Web-based surveys administered at three time points, and linked to individual-level PGT results, provide data on 1,464 PGT customers, of which 71% completed each follow-up survey and 64% completed all three surveys. The cohort includes 15.7% individuals of non-white ethnicity, and encompasses a range of income, education, and health levels. Over 90% of participants agreed to re-contact for future research.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13073-014-0096-0) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4256737  PMID: 25484922
20.  Genetic susceptibility testing for neurodegenerative diseases: Ethical and practice issues 
Progress in neurobiology  2013;110:10.1016/j.pneurobio.2013.02.005.
As the genetics of neurodegenerative disease become better understood, opportunities for genetic susceptibility testing for at-risk individuals will increase. Such testing raises important ethical and practice issues related to test access, informed consent, risk estimation and communication, return of results, and policies to prevent genetic discrimination. The advent of direct-to-consumer genetic susceptibility testing for various neurodegenerative disorders (including Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and certain prion diseases) means that ethical and practical challenges must be faced not only in traditional research and clinical settings, but also in broader society. This review addresses several topics relevant to the development and implementation of genetic susceptibility tests across research, clinical, and consumer settings; these include appropriate indications for testing, the implications of different methods for disclosing test results, clinical versus personal utility of risk information, psychological and behavioral responses to test results, testing of minors, genetic discrimination, and ethical dilemmas posed by whole-genome sequencing. We also identify future areas of likely growth in the field, including pharmacogenomics and genetic screening for individuals considering or engaged in activities that pose elevated risk of brain injury (e.g., football players, military personnel). APOE gene testing for risk of Alzheimer’s disease is used throughout as an instructive case example, drawing upon the authors’ experience as investigators in a series of multisite randomized clinical trials that have examined the impact of disclosing APOE genotype status to interested individuals (e.g., first-degree relatives, persons with mild cognitive impairment).
PMCID: PMC3772971  PMID: 23583530
Genetic testing; risk assessment; apolipoprotein E (APOE); ethics; genetic counseling
21.  Reducing Infection Transmission in Solid Organ Transplantation Through Donor Nucleic Acid Testing: A Cost-Effectiveness Analysis 
For solid organ transplant (SOT) donors, nucleic acid-amplification testing (NAT) may reduce human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and hepatitis C virus (HCV) transmission over antibody (Ab) testing given its shorter detection window period. We compared SOT donor NAT + Ab versus Ab alone using decision models to estimate incremental cost-effectiveness ratios (ICERs; cost per quality-adjusted life year [QALY] gained) from the societal perspective across a range of HIV/HCV prevalence values and NAT costs. The cost per QALY gained was calculated for two scenarios: (1) favorable: low cost ($150/donor)/high prevalence (HIV: 1.5%; HCV: 18.2%) and (2) unfavorable: high cost ($500/donor)/low prevalence (HIV: 0.1%; HCV: 1.5%). In the favorable scenario, adding NAT screening cost $161 013 per QALY gained for HIV was less costly) for HCV, and cost $86 653 per QALY gained for HIV/HCV combined. For the unfavorable scenario, the costs were $15 568 484, $221 006 and $10 077 599 per QALY gained, respectively. Universal HCV NAT + Ab for donors appears cost-effective to reduce infection transmission from SOT donors, while HIV NAT + Ab is not, except where HIV NAT is ≤$150/donor and prevalence is ≥1.5%. Our analyses provide important data to facilitate the decision to implement HIV and HCV NAT for deceased SOT donors and shape national policy regarding how to reduce infection transmission in SOT.
PMCID: PMC4091990  PMID: 24034208
Cost-effectiveness analysis; graft; organ transplantation; surgery
22.  Early identification of autism in fragile X syndrome: a review 
Fragile X syndrome (FXS) is the leading genetic cause of autism, accounting for approximately 5% of autism cases with as many as 50% of individuals with FXS meeting DSM-IV-TR criteria for autistic disorder. Both FXS and idiopathic autism (IA) are attributed to genetic causes; however, FXS is an identified single gene disorder whereas autism is a complex disorder with multiple potential causes, some of which have been identified. Studies in IA have focused on the prospective longitudinal examination of infant siblings of children with autism as a target group due to their high risk of developing the disorder. We propose that this same model be applied to the study of infants with FXS. There is a lack of research focusing on the early development of autism within FXS and debate in the literature regarding how to best conceptualise this co-morbidity or whether it should be considered a co-morbid condition at all. Studying the emergence and stability of autism in infants with FXS has multiple benefits such as clarifying the underlying mechanisms of the development of autism in FXS and solidifying similarities and differences between co-morbid FXS with autism and IA. Infant research in both IA and FXS are discussed as well as conclusions and implications for practice and future research.
PMCID: PMC4023162  PMID: 22974167
autism; fragile X; intellectual disability; methodology in research
23.  Direct-to-Consumer Genetic Testing and Personal Genomics Services: A Review of Recent Empirical Studies 
Current genetic medicine reports  2013;1(3):182-200.
Direct-to-consumer genetic testing (DTC-GT) has sparked much controversy and undergone dramatic changes in its brief history. Debates over appropriate health policies regarding DTC-GT would benefit from empirical research on its benefits, harms, and limitations. We review the recent literature (2011-present) and summarize findings across (1) content analyses of DTC-GT websites, (2) studies of consumer perspectives and experiences, and (3) surveys of relevant health care providers. Findings suggest that neither the health benefits envisioned by DTC-GT proponents (e.g., significant improvements in positive health behaviors) nor the worst fears expressed by its critics (e.g., catastrophic psychological distress and misunderstanding of test results, undue burden on the health care system) have materialized to date. However, research in this area is in its early stages and possesses numerous key limitations. We note needs for future studies to illuminate the impact of DTC-GT and thereby guide practice and policy regarding this rapidly evolving approach to personal genomics.
PMCID: PMC3777821  PMID: 24058877
Genetic testing; Consumer genomics; Health ethics; Health policy; Personalized medicine
24.  Molecular characterization of intrahepatic and extrahepatic hepatitis B virus (HBV) reservoirs in patients on suppressive antiviral therapy 
Journal of viral hepatitis  2011;18(6):415-423.
The hepatitis B virus (HBV) replicates via an error-prone reverse transcriptase generating potential drug-resistant quasispecies. The degree of HBV variability in liver vs peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) in patients on long-term suppressive antivirals is unclear. We characterized HBV replication, drug resistance and molecular diversity in patients with plasma HBV DNA undetectable by clinical assays. Explant liver (n = 9), PBMC (n = 6) and plasma (n = 7) from nine such patients undergoing liver transplantation were evaluated for HBV genomes by sensitive PCR/nucleic acid hybridization assay. Cases with HBV DNA in liver and PBMC were tested for covalently closed circular DNA (HBV cccDNA). HBV polymerase (P) amplicons were cloned, sequenced and both P and overlapping surface (S) gene sequences were analysed. HBV DNA was detected in 43% (3/7) of plasma, 100% (9/9) of liver and 83% (5/6) of PBMC samples. HBV cccDNA was detected in all liver and one PBMC sample. Four patients had a clinical diagnosis of resistance. HBV P gene sequencing revealed 100% wild type (wt) in plasma (2/2), 83% wt in PBMC (5/6) but livers of 3/9 (33%) contained wt and 6/9 (66%) carried resistance to lamivudine and/or adefovir. The translated S gene revealed no changes affecting HBV antigenicity. Sequences from livers with antiviral resistant mutants revealed greater interpatient quasispecies diversity. Despite apparent HBV suppression, the liver continues to support HBV replication and extrahepatic HBV can be detected. PBMC may be a sanctuary for wt virus during antiviral therapy, while the liver harbours more drug-resistant viruses. Drug resistance correlates with intrahepatic viral diversity.
PMCID: PMC4142495  PMID: 20626626
antiviral resistance; diversity; HBV; peripheral blood mononuclear cells; quasispecies; reservoirs
25.  Environmental variability and biodiversity of megabenthos on the Hebrides Terrace Seamount (Northeast Atlantic) 
Scientific Reports  2014;4:5589.
We present the first remotely operated vehicle investigation of megabenthic communities (1004–1695 m water depth) on the Hebrides Terrace Seamount (Northeast Atlantic). Conductivity-temperature-depth casts showed rapid light attenuation below the summit and an oceanographic regime on the flanks consistent with an internal tide, and high short-term variability in water temperature, salinity, light attenuation, aragonite and oxygen down to 1500 m deep. Minor changes in species composition (3–14%) were explained by changes in depth, substratum and oceanographic stability, whereas environmental variability explained substantially more variation in species richness (40–56%). Two peaks in species richness occurred, the first at 1300–1400 m where cooler Wyville Thomson Overflow Water (WTOW) mixes with subtropical gyre waters and the second at 1500–1600 m where WTOW mixes with subpolar mode waters. Our results suggest that internal tides, substrate heterogeneity and oceanographic interfaces may enhance biological diversity on this and adjacent seamounts in the Rockall Trough.
PMCID: PMC4083264  PMID: 24998523

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