Jul 16, 2014, 9:00 AM, Posted by
Each month, What’s Next Health talks with leading thinkers with big ideas about the future of health and health care. Nancy Barrand, RWJF’s senior adviser for program development, hosted Randy Jirtle, senior scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison McArdle Laboratory, for a fascinating discussion about his work in epigenetics. Randy’s pioneering work in this field holds far-reaching implications for understanding and addressing the interplay between our genes and our environment. Randy answered follow up questions from Nancy to help lay out the basics behind epigenetics and what it might mean for our work moving forward. (Randy’s opinions are not necessarily those of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.)
Nancy Barrand: What is epigenetics?
Randy Jirtle: Epigenetics simply means above the genetics, and it refers to the study of heritable changes in gene function that occur without a change in the DNA sequence. So we now know that chemical modifications of the DNA, and the histones the DNA wraps around, actually determine whether genes are functional or not functional. These chemical modifications can be caused by environmental factors that we are exposed to, such as the nutrients we eat—or those our mother ate—or stress at critical junctures in our development.
Understanding how a single epigenetic change can totally disrupt the action or expression of a gene is providing us for the first time with information that will ultimately allow people to prevent diseases and conditions from ever happening, rather than just treating them after they occur.
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Jul 9, 2014, 12:00 PM, Posted by
Pioneer Blog Team
Rishi Desai, Medical Partnership Program Lead at Khan Academy, works to help Khan Academy connect people to quality information about health and medicine. He is currently a pediatric infectious disease physician, and previously spent two years as an EIS officer with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
By Rishi Desai
About two months ago we launched two competitions to find talented individuals that could help us by making videos, creating questions, or writing articles for the 2015 Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). The 2015 MCAT is different from the previous MCAT exam because it will include new content in areas like psychology and sociology. To help students get ready for this new exam, Khan Academy has partnered up with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Association of American Medical Colleges, and so far we have put together a collection of 500 videos and 600 practice MCAT questions.
The competitions were a tremendous success and we found 12 video competition winners and 20 question and article writing competition winners.
Meet our winners and learn about why they decided to participate in the competition.
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Jul 9, 2014, 9:15 AM, Posted by
Christine Nieves, Steve Downs
Since the advent of the stethoscope, information-gathering technology has been helping doctors and other medical professionals improve patient health. Over the past decade, RWJF has funded a series of projects that suggest helping patients track and share data with their clinicians can strengthen the patient-clinician partnership and improve health outcomes. It makes sense that giving clinicians access to patient-tracked health data can improve the health of individuals and communities. As simple as the concept may sound, though, unlocking personal health data for clinical purposes has proven quite challenging.
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Jun 24, 2014, 12:13 PM, Posted by
What’s Next Health guest Jessica Green, founding director of the BioBE (Biology and the Built Environment Center), visited RWJF last year to discuss the health implications of the microbiome—the invisible collection of bacteria, viruses, fungi, and archaea that live on, in and all around us. Watch Jessica’s What's Next Health interview to learn more about microbiomes in the built environment and how that knowledge can be used to design spaces and buildings to create a healthier, more sustainable world.
During her visit, Jessica led an educational workshop where staff swabbed their fingers and mobile phones to learn about the relationship between the microscopic communities living on both. The findings from that educational workshop turned out to be quite interesting, and ultimately led to a study published today in the journal PeerJ. Senior Program Officer Deborah Bae caught up with Jessica to learn more about her research.
Deborah: When we hear the term microbe, many of us think about germs that cause disease. So what is the microbiome, and why is it important in promoting health?
Jessica: Twenty years ago, when I was an environmental engineering student, I learned that microbes were pollutants or contaminants, and were something that you wanted to eliminate, particularly in the indoor environment. And we know from history that being in a very unclean, unsanitary environment kills people. What we’ve learned more recently is that for every human cell, we have up to ten bacterial cells and even more viruses living on the human body. There's a rising consensus that aspects of this microbiome can be beneficial to human health. Some of these microorganisms help our immune system function, ward off pathogens and infections, and microbes in our gut may be even linked to the way that we think and feel.
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Jun 10, 2014, 2:38 PM, Posted by
As co-chair of the Community Track at this year’s Health Datapalooza conference, I was impressed by the strong sense of purpose I felt among the attendees. The conversation has clearly moved from the abstract concepts of gathering and accessing data, to how we can use that data to solve real-world challenges. The launch of a new network to bring together researchers, scientists and companies and accelerate research using personal health data, led by the Health Data Exploration project with funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, was one of many efforts designed to directly improve our understanding of health through the wise use of data.
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