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Posts Tagged ‘DNA’

Ever since Great Grandma Ada and Hudson moved to Nashville, Bob and I have been busy with the myriad friends and relatives who have come to visit them. First it was Hudson’s son-in-law, then his daughter from Arkansas.  Next up, Kathy and her ex from NC went to the museum with all of us. Then an old friend, Toni from FL came by, and she and Ada Facetimed with Toni’s new grandbaby.  But the last visitor stole the show!

We finally met Dickie’s daughter, Tamara.

When Ada first heard the news during rehab she was ecstatic. It made all her hard work after hip surgery bearable. Dickie was her middle son, the handsome desperado who went to Mexico for medical school and in some ways never returned. He died too young. In fact, the Rocker’s Bar Mitzvah was just a few weeks later. His very first band played at the beach party we threw for all the Eighth Grade! Dickie would have loved that evening.

Why he didn’t tell us about Tamara we’ll never know. He wrote to her, and her birth mother Kathy, once she found him. By that time his daughter was in her early 20s. Maybe he just wasn’t ready to meet Tammy; it must have been a shock to find out that twenty years ago you went to Woodstock but somewhere in NC, in one of those horrible homes for young pregnant girls, your baby was born. And against Kathy’s wishes, Tammy was given up just days later for adoption.

I’d been on pins and needles, waiting to meet her. We saw pictures of Tammy and her family – Ada now has two new Great Grandsons – and I kept trying to see Dickie in their eyes. I just wasn’t sure, until I walked into Ada’s new apartment and looked at both of them, Grandmother and Grand Daughter together. I realized Tammy takes after Ada’s family, like Bob and Jeff. Dickie looked like his father, blonde and fair, it didn’t occur to me that of course DNA can do extraordinary things!

She has Dickie’s wavy hair and his smile, but the rest is pure Ada. Those dark Russian eyes, and the sparkle to go along with them. She loves history and music. Her voice is honeyed by her Southern roots. She is beautiful, smart and sensible, and lucky for her, she grew up in a loving, intact home. Unlike most adopted children, Tammy didn’t seek out her birth parents, so this rag-tag team of Yankee Jewish relatives was a big surprise. For most of her life she thought she was Italian!

We laughed, we ate, we shopped at Talbots, we talked, we celebrated our good fortune. We added another link to our family totem; our tree of life has sprouted a new branch.

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I was going to do a six-worded, pictorial memoir of Spring so far, but there’s just too much going on right now. No, it’s not a shoe sale at Scarpa, or a fox sighting. Although Bob did spot a juvenile fox strolling around the yard yesterday. I’m talking about the big news coming down from the high court this week, about genes.

The US Supreme Court, while thinking that corporations are just like you and me, has decided that our human genes should stay in the public domain. It’s like saying to a patent attorney, “Get lost!” this red hair is mine and I’m keeping it. Pretty much every scientist I know took a collective sigh of relief after this ruling. However in the Association for Molecular Pathology vs Myriad Genetics case, SCOTUS followed up with a coda –  “(synthetic) cDNA is not a “product of nature,” so it is patent eligible under §101. cDNA does not present the same obstacles to patentability as naturally occurring, isolated DNA segments.”  http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/12pdf/12-398_1b7d.pdf

Bob explained it to me this way – Let’s say a musician writes a symphony. He/she, and or their company, can patent that song, the sequence of notes that makes the music happen. But the notes themselves cannot be patented; the violins, the drums, the cello and every instrument used to compose that opus cannot be patented, and must stay in the public domain.

The linchpin of this decision, one that may allow for too many loopholes is the phrase that states only when a researcher creates something that is “…not naturally occurring,” then, and only then will they receive a patent. The Court was considering the genetic sequence, in this case, of the BRCA breast cancer gene.

So on one hand the Court is saying that: gene-coded information is what really matters when it occurs “naturally,” and isolating one gene in a sequence is not inventing something new and therefore NOT patentable; but on the other hand, synthetic “cDNA is different from naturally occurring RNA, even though both hold exactly the same genetic information. ”  This is less of a distinction, and more of a contradiction.

But what can we do? Will it help to stem the tide of all those newly minted MD/PhDs out there from going abroad to continue their research? Will it make genetic testing more affordable, like the testing Angelina Jolie decided to have? I once had a genetic test done when I was pregnant with the Rocker. I was 35 and considered an old lady by medical standards, so we traveled to a research facility in CT where a very young doctor inserted a very big needle into my extremely big abdomen.  Something happened in the lab. They never told us what, and only some of the testing was completed; I didn’t know the sex, and only learned that my baby did not have spina bifida. So, they were all ready to make a repeat appointment for me in the OR – they wanted to do a second amniocentesis.

“…amniocentesis is a procedure used to obtain a small sample of the amniotic fluid that surrounds the fetus to diagnose chromosomal disorders and open neural tube defects (ONTDs) such as spina bifida. There is a small risk of miscarriage associated with amniocentesis which must be balanced with the risk of an abnormality and the patient’s desires.”

I had watched my baby Rocker, on an early ultrasound monitor in 1984, back away from that needle once, and I was not about to do it again. After 3 miscarriages the year before, Bob took one look at me and told the genetic counselor, “Thanks, but no thanks.”

Here is my handsome boy at his sister’s wedding, with all 10 toes and 10 musical fingers.J&M  0602

A little history of US Patent Law from 1793 – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_United_States_patent_law

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