Keeping it real and using science to explain

Look up in the sky! 13 genetic superheroes could lead us to life-saving cures, for real.

super power person

Who should you call for help when Batman is busy?

A superhero with good genes. Scientists are now studying people who have “super powers” that mean they stay healthy despite the disease-carrying genetic cards dealt to them. In other words, they have a genetic mutation that could lead to a particular disease, but they never get the disease.

Plain dumb luck? Perhaps. But maybe more than that. Researchers have found that these people inherited a gene that produces a protein that protects them.

What planet do genetic superheroes live on?

Not ours, apparently. But scientists, after searching the DNA of over half a million people, have found 13 individuals who are resistant to fatal childhood genetic diseases that they have inherited. The researchers hope that studying what’s unique about their special protein-producing abilities could lead to life-saving cures.

Genetic disease? What do you say to a friend who can’t remember high-school genetics?

You got this. Remember that monk  and those yellow and green pea plants? Uh-huh. All 13 superheroes were carrying genes for the disorder according to Mendelian genetics. Which means that the genes occur in families through the inheritance of a single defective gene. Conditions such as Cystic Fibrosis, Huntington’s chorea, and fragile X syndrome reflect the inheritance pattern that is known as Mendelian.

Why won’t the 13 superheroes phone home?

The 13 don’t know they possess superpowers.

And researchers are unable to contact them due to rules around protecting anonymity of people whose DNA is stored in data banks.

“The researchers could not re-contact the majority of resilient individuals for further study because of a lack of necessary consent forms.” Dr. Daniel MacArthur, from Massachusetts General Hospital in the US said. Which means that basically, the study is hamstringed.

“Finding genetic “superpowers” will require other kinds of heroism – a willingness of participants to donate their genomic and clinical data, and a commitment by researchers and regulators to overcome the daunting obstacles to data-sharing on a global scale.”







6 thoughts on “Look up in the sky! 13 genetic superheroes could lead us to life-saving cures, for real.”

  1. Hi Dr. Jaffe,
    This post really hit home for me. I have a 29 year old daughter with autism. My husband and I (and of course our daughter) just enrolled in a landmark autism research project (called SPARK) sponsored by the Simons Foundation.
    We are so hopeful that this study of genetics and autism will help to contribute and speed up research efforts.
    I encourage other families with children with autism to join this research project. We need everyone!

    1. thehealthscope says:

      Donna, hopefully, genetics research can lead to improvements in the diagnosis and treatment of autism. Thank you for sharing the link to the research project. I wish you great success with this research and would love to hear more about the study as it develops. Please keep us posted! Thank you for visiting!

  2. Keep us posted when the Superhero’s are found!

    1. thehealthscope says:

      Anne, I will keep you posted! Thanks for visiting!

  3. Think this has anything to do with mind over matter? Meaning, did these people that don’t get the disease they ‘should’ have (based on genes)… are actually using the power of positive thought. Focus on what you want… and you’ll likely get it! Cool article, thanks.

    1. thehealthscope says:

      Elizabeth, interesting perspective! And great suggestion on the power of positive thought. Many people are successful using positive thinking to facilitate mind-body healing. Thank you for visiting!

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