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Celebrating 2018 Nobel Laureates

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Drs. Francis Collins, Peter WT Pisters, and Jim Allison

It was an honor to attend the Nobel Symposium hosted by the Embassy of Sweden in the U.S. on November 13, 2018. The symposium was held at the House of Sweden in Washington, D.C. to celebrate the 2018 American Nobel Laureates. Four of this year’s six Nobel Laureates were in attendance. Here, I’m standing with Peter WT Pisters (middle), president of the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston; and Jim Allison (right), also with MD Anderson and a co-recipient of the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Dr. Allison played a leading role in developing cancer immunotherapy. Credit: @ppisters


Cardiometabolic Disease: Big Data Tackles a Big Health Problem

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Cardiometabolic risk lociMore and more studies are popping up that demonstrate the power of Big Data analyses to get at the underlying molecular pathology of some of our most common diseases. A great example, which may have flown a bit under the radar during the summer holidays, involves cardiometabolic disease. It’s an umbrella term for common vascular and metabolic conditions, including hypertension, impaired glucose and lipid metabolism, excess belly fat, and inflammation. All of these components of cardiometabolic disease can increase a person’s risk for a heart attack or stroke.

In the study, an international research team tapped into the power of genomic data to develop clearer pictures of the complex biocircuitry in seven types of vascular and metabolic tissue known to be affected by cardiometabolic disease: the liver, the heart’s aortic root, visceral abdominal fat, subcutaneous fat, internal mammary artery, skeletal muscle, and blood. The researchers found that while some circuits might regulate the level of gene expression in just one tissue, that’s often not the case. In fact, the researchers’ computational models show that such genetic circuitry can be organized into super networks that work together to influence how multiple tissues carry out fundamental life processes, such as metabolizing glucose or regulating lipid levels. When these networks are perturbed, perhaps by things like inherited variants that affect gene expression, or environmental influences such as a high-carb diet, sedentary lifestyle, the aging process, or infectious disease, the researchers’ modeling work suggests that multiple tissues can be affected, resulting in chronic, systemic disorders including cardiometabolic disease.