Author Archives: brucelander

When Bio Isn’t So Boring

My personal and professional worlds recently collided when I sat with my 9th grade son, Brian, to review for his upcoming Biology exam. The subject was the reproductive system, the stages of pregnancy, and fertility. The chapter ended with infertility issues and in-vitro fertilization (IVF), which allowed me to take his Biology unit one step further and explain to him the amazing technology known as “pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD),” a topic on which my Program for Jewish Genetic Health colleagues frequently educate the Jewish community. At first, probably like most teenagers, he didn’t want to learn any more than what he HAD to know for his exam. But I was able to pique his interest by giving him a real life example of the miracle of PGD.

When Brian was 12 years old, one of his Little League teammates, Cody, had a younger brother named Jack who had Familial Dysautonomia (FD), one of the Jewish genetic diseases. Jack was like the team mascot, always there to cheer on Cody and run around the bases after many games. Cody also had two, twin toddler siblings often running around on the sidelines. While Brian knew that something wasn’t quite right with Jack, he was unaware that a modern day technology – PGD – enabled Cody’s mom to subsequently give birth to healthy twins.

So while reviewing infertility and IVF – and harking back to his previous Genetics unit – I was able to bring his Biology unit to life. I first showed him my “work” video of Cody’s mom, talking about how the miracle of PGD enabled her to give birth to two healthy twins and know they would not be born with FD. I then signed in to our full lesson to show him real video of how PGD is performed…plucking cells from 3-day old harvested embryos and testing them for disease, before implanting the healthy embryos into the womb. It was a real “Whoa, that’s cool!” moment for him, to see video of this technology at work, and to understand the peace of mind it gave to Cody’s mom and dad when they gave birth to their twins.

It’s often a challenge to make your child understand why the material they are studying in class is worthwhile. By showing Brian how modern day science can truly make an impact and prevent heartache in people’s lives, I was able to interest him in learning more than he needed to know for his exam.

Jewish Genetic Diseases are a COMMUNITY Problem

Of the 112 students that were screened on the Yeshiva University campus this past April, more than one third were found to be carriers of at least one Jewish genetic disease.  This demonstrates that being a carrier is not a stigma, it’s a community problem!  Fortunately, carrier screening via the PJGH is significantly more affordable than in the past, thanks to a new relationship with genetic testing company, Counsyl.  In addition, generous subsidies from Mr. Michael Stoler and the Foundation for Medical Evaluation and Early Detection makes pre-conception carrier screening even more affordable.

Our carrier screenings – coordinated through the Montefiore Medical Center/Einstein office of Dr. Susan Klugman, PJGH Director of Clinical Services and Community Outreach, include genetic counseling sessions.  Click here for more information on how to get screened via the PJGH.  Also check out a recent opinion piece from one of our genetic counselors, Estie Rose, about the importance of carrier screening.

Welcome to The Gene Scene

Welcome to The Gene Scene!

How is the field of genetics going to change the world of medicine?  What kinds of situations do genetic counselors face on a daily basis?  What kinds of ethical concerns should be taken into consideration before we all go down the “slippery slope” of genetic engineering?  What do the Rabbis say is allowable under Jewish law?

These questions are just examples of what The Gene Scene will cover.

Our genetic counselors and program directors – many of whom have clinical and academic appointments at Montefiore Medical Center, the University Hospital for Einstein, and Jacobi Medical Center – will share stories, patient scenarios and perspectives from the field of genetics.  We’ll share interesting questions that have been posed by patients and Rabbis.  We also will take stories about genetics that are in the news and provide fresh commentary on what they mean to the common person.

We hope you enjoy The Gene Scene.  Thanks for visiting!

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