Archive for the ‘Genetics’ Category

Genes vs Jeans

IS093-053They either make my butt look too big, or too broad. They accentuate my gut or give me muffin top.  They are jeans.  The bane of my existence.  My dream is to be able to look good in a white t-shirt, a pair of jeans, and some flip flops.  But it seems that my genes won’t let me look good in my jeans.

If any of you have been paying attention, you’ll know that for the past several months, I’ve been writing for 23andMe as one of their founding community members in the Pregnancy Community.  (And no, I’m not preggers.  I just have been – thus, I qualify.)  According to my genes, I am at a slightly elevated risk for obesity.  According to my genes, I will never look good in the aforementioned jeans, t-shirt and flip flops ensemble.  According to my jeans, my genes are correct.

I find it almost impossible to buy jeans.  If they’re “classic cut” they make my butt look like North Dakota – wide and flat.  If they’re low cut -  well, where do I begin?  How are you supposed to wear underwear with those low-cut jeans?  And if you’re not supposed to wear underwear (yuck!), then what are you supposed to do with your – ahem – furry bits?  Brazillian?  I don’t expect to rhumba any time soon.  Plus, I find it more than slightly offensive that men – with their hairy backs, fuzzy butts, and occasional ear hair, deem it “sexy” for a grown woman to be hairless “down there.”  Call me crazy, but that smacks of pedophilia to me.

Then there’s the question of how to keep those low-cut jeans from falling down.  Many’s the time I walked behind a teenage home-boy, wondering how he does it.  It truly is a miracle of fashion physics.  Their pants stay up, even with their waistbands way down.

SO I was already worried enough about my jeans, when suddenly my genes had to complicate things.

According to my genes, I am also at greater risk for developing diabetes.  Yet this doesn’t phase me.  Genes only slightly influence diabetes.  I figure that if I exercise and eat right, it won’t be a problem.  But obesity?  I’m a girl who watches each cookie I eat deposit itself as fat on my upper thighs.  I am a girl who almost always buys the size large.  I am the girl with back-muffin-top.  You know, at the bra line?  This obesity gene – is serious business. IT’S FREAKING ME OUT!

And because of that diabetes risk, I can even have a pint of chocolate chip mint to soothe my worried mind.

Darn you, jean-etics!

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23andme_logoI am a terrible spitter. Seriously. I am one of those people who, when she tries to spit (like, say after getting a mouthful of gnats while running on a summer day. And yes, I sometimes do run. Not a lot, but sometimes. Hey, it isn’t easy finding time to run)

ANWAY, I am one of those people who, when she tries to spit, ends up with a chin full of drool. I’m not even good at spitting out my toothpaste. I cannot begin to count the number of times I’ve found toothpaste IN MY HAIR after brushing. Of course, I only find it after it’s dried and stuck together in a little clump on my head, because realizing that it was there while I was standing at the sink would just be too easy, what with the ability at that moment to rinse it out and all.

Honestly, it’s not as if it’s been a big issue for me. Spitting is for old men, tobacco chewing baseball players, and babies, when they eat something they don’t like. It’s not like I’ve aspired to be the Michael Phelps of spitting. Honking a lugey has never been high on my list of to-do lists, not to mention to-do-well lists.

I even think the word is awful. Spit. Sounds like an expletive, doesn’t it? No really, say it really loudly and with a bit of anger in your voice. See? Now go wash your mouth out with soap, you naughty girl, you.

Even the clinical alternative to the word spit, “saliva,” seems salacious. It sounds like one of your “female” parts, the uterus, the vulva, the saliva.

So I’m not a spitter. You can imagine, then, how I felt when I saw the amount of saliva I had to produce for 23andMe. (I couldn’t help but notice that the thing you have to spit into for 23andMe is called a vial! Get it? Vile/Vial. Accident? I think not!)

But you know what? It wasn’t that bad. I think my problem with spitting has always been the distance thing. Projectile spitting is not my forte. Spitting directly into a little tube, however, was perfectly fine. Gross, but fine. I got all the saliva in there without too much difficulty.

Once I had the spit, I took a look. I haven’t seen that much of my own saliva in one place since I was fitted for a retainer in seventh grade. But this spit was different, special. It was sort of like a test-tube baby. All this promise in a tube: the promise of learning about my heritage, delving into my genetic make-up, solving, perhaps, the mystery of why I’ve never, ever, been good at math.

Who knows what all this spitting will bring? Maybe I’ll start to associate spitting not with old men and phlegmy handkerchiefs, but with knowledge and medical breakthroughs. But for now, I think I’ve spit enough. Excuse me while I go wipe my chin.

Full Disclosure:  I am a founding member of the 23andMe and me Pregnancy Community, which sponsored this post.

Part of the mission of 23andMe is to increase research into pregnancy and pregnancy related issues.  You can be a part of it (even if you don’t spit!) The more women who participate by answering surveys, the better the reasearch will be. If you are currently pregnant  or have been pregnant before please visit http://www.23andme.com/pregnancy and complete a short survey.

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23andme-logoSo the 23andMe pregnancy community launched today on Good Morning America.

And since I’m officially a “founding member” of the community, I was wondering…what do people think of getting tested while pregnant?  Some people are saying too much information isn’t always a good thing.  I say, how can we know too much when it comes to the health of our children?  I also say, it isn’t necessarily about you.  The more women who get tested, the more data will be out there, the more possibility there is for real discovery and change.

(Full disclosure again: I’m a (nominally) paid blogger for 23andMe. But they DO NOT tell me what to say.  Except to let you know I’m a nominally paid blogger.)

I’d love it if you weighed in on this one.  Take the poll below, then feel free to elaborate in the comments section.

And one last thing: You can help out with the research even if you don’t get tested– if you are currently pregnant  or have been pregnant before please visit http://www.23andme.com/pregnancy and complete a short survey.

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Well, the launch is finally here, and now I can divulge my 23andMe secret:  I am a founding member of the 23andMe pregnancy blogging community.  And no, I am not making another, related to the pregnancy part of that announcement.  Those days are gone.  That ship has sailed.  This uterus is CLOSED for operation.  I have been pregnant — so I qualified for the job. (Yes, it’s a job: full disclosure, here.)

What will I be doing?  Posting at least once a week.  Getting involved in the forums.  Participating in surveys. Basically being a part of an incredibly cool, potentially medically influential company that really, truly, wants to make a difference in women’s health – and in health care in general. (No pressure, but if you’re pregnant, you can contribute to some pretty cool research related to women’s gestational health by participating too. Click here.)

If you’ve ever wondered what it takes to get your genome tested (and full disclosure: as an employee, I had it done for free.)  read my post, below.  And check out this video, to see what it’s like to Spit!

And now – the post:


Genotyping. The whole thing has a kind of futuristic feeling. Like I should be wearing a silver jumpsuit and sitting in a white laminate Pod, eating simulated food, while a computer calculates the precise moment at which my offspring will appear and completely disrupt my life.

But genotyping isn’t science fiction. It’s here.

Part of me feels a little “don’t ask/don’t tell.” What if I find out something terrible? Like I have a tremendous chance of developing a particularly awful disease, or that I’m genetically related to that horrible mother at my kids’ school who’s always telling everyone what a “genius” her kid is, or that, in all likelihood, I will never, ever, be truly thin. I’m not sure I want to know.

Take, for instance, the possibility that my genes indicate that I will never be thin. Will I use it as an excuse to scarf down a pint of ice-cream with a chocolate-chip cookie chaser? Or if I am genetically related to that mother – will I feel obligated to ask her to join me for Thanksgiving dinner, thus increasing exponentially the possibility of my suffering a sever bout of indigestion? Or, in a completely unfunny scenario, what if I find out I have the breast cancer gene? Will I live in fear for the rest of my life? Will I opt to take preventative action? Who knows?

But I’ve never been one to shy away from the truth, to eschew knowledge and go through life in blissful ignorance. So I do want to know as much about myself as I can. But more than that, I want to know about how I came to be who I am.

My mother’s family consisted of her, her brother, and her parents. Every other person in her extended family was killed in World War II. My grandparents never wanted to discuss their painful past, which left me with little to no information about where that side of my family came from. Maybe genotyping could offer some sort of snap-shot of them that I don’t have, and maybe my genetic picture will help fill in the blanks in my family’s medical history.

My own family consists of me, my husband, and our two children. Like most mothers, there’s nothing I wouldn’t do for my kids. (At their request, I even put on a cat costume this Halloween. And trust me, a forty-three year old mother in a tight cat-suit with ears does not make anyone meow.) Maybe learning about my own genetic make-up will give me the information I need to keep my children healthy, help them grow.

I might find out things I don’t want to know. But the thought that I might find out something horrible is outweighed by the possibility that I might find out something useful. Or even that I may help someone else by contributing to research that could lead to breakthroughs in any number of medical fields. I could inform myself, know what I need to do to help me and my family live long productive life. Plus, I could and find out if it’s true what my Great Uncle Nat always said: I’m related to Harry Connick Jr. Cousin Harry!!! I love you!

If I find out, however, that I will never, ever, be truly thin. I may have to ask for a refund.

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23andMe…and me

This past Sunday in the New York Times Magazine, a guy with j0436915a tremendous head of hair wrote about how, in having his genomes sequenced, he found out that genetically speaking, he should be bald. (OK, so Steven Pinker wrote about a lot more than that…but did you see that head of hair!!?)

This morning, here in San Francisco, where I am (for now) escaping the horrifyingly cold weather in NY, I am awaiting the results of my own spit test.  A few weeks ago I spit into a vial (which I then made vile), mixed said spit with some concoction 23andMe sent me, stuck it all in an envelope and sent it off to 23andMe, where some unsuspecting scientist undoubtedly discovered that I eat way too much garlic.

I’m hoping they discover more.  Like maybe why I’m so low on the hand-eye coordination scale.  Or (more seriously) if I’m prone to diabetes, to certain kinds of cancer, Crohn’s disease, or if there’s some reason both my daughter and I love mint but hate wintergreen.  Hey, maybe there’s some genetic reason some Lifesavers flavor-name-writer chose to call it Wint-o-Green? Very annoying, that.

The whole idea of 23andMe is to provide consumers access to a truly amazing new technology that can teach us an awful lot about who we are — and that has the potential to change the way we treat disease, or look at disability, or relate to ourselves.  Genome testing gives us the opportunity for an amazing insight into who we are. And 23andMe is hoping that as we share this information online, we’ll help them create a research database that could, eventually, help scientists with research, and help people connect on a totally different and more profound level than “I’m a Beyonce fan and so are you!” (more…)

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