Bad Genes: They Don't Just Come From Mom & Dad

4 Min. Read | November 4, 2020

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When you were young your parents probably boasted that you had your mom’s eyes or your dad’s nose. But they probably did not discuss, or likely not even know, they may have also passed on to you genetic variations linked to predisposition for disease. Don’t guilt your parents for this. The genetic variations you carry that are most commonly linked to disease are not ones from your parents, but rather ones you have acquired as you’ve aged. 

These accumulated, or somatic, genetic changes can come from environmental insults such as chemicals or ultra-violet radiation, or from common errors our cells make in duplicating themselves over time. The latter starts before birth and changes from all causes accelerate and accumulate more quickly as we age. They spark the majority of cancers. 

Variations in genes you may have inherited (germline) still can come with concern; one in five healthy adults probably carries such genetic markers. GoodCell tests a panel of 59 genes for these markers that have been proven to be linked to increased predisposition for certain cancers, heart diseases and other conditions, but have also been deemed to be actionable through lifestyle and medical interventions to reduce the likelihood of disease by the American College of Medical Genetics and Genomics.  Some two to three percent of us carry one or more of these 59 genetic markers. 

For many diseases linked to inherited genes, a single gene can’t act alone. Many inherited factors don’t necessarily result in disease until they team up with another inherited and/or an acquired genetic mutation. This makes those genes of yours—that through accumulated change—no longer look like what you got from your parents all the more important. 

While many acquired genetic variations have no clinical impact, the likelihood of impactful genetic variation in our blood cells increases dramatically with age. Several research teams in the past couple years have linked these changes to vulnerabilities for certain blood cancers and forms of heart disease. Research teams across the globe have also started to report linkage between these blood cells’ genetic changes and susceptibility to the most severe forms of COVID19. 

GoodCell has developed and filed patents on a proprietary platform to measure these accumulated changes to our nucleated blood cells over time.  In particular, we can detect and measure the expansion of these detrimental variations within our blood cells—a phenomenon known as clonal hematopoiesis. One application of the platform is targeting COVID susceptibility, whereby we test for both inherited and accumulated genetic variants linked to a dysfunctional inflammatory response leading to pulmonary, cardiac and coagulopathic complications seen in the most severe forms of the disease. 

That platform serves as the foundation for a recently launched a three-stage study to investigate COVID-19 incollaborationwith New York Blood Center. 

For all of us looking to understand and, as much as possible, reduce our genetic predisposition for disease through early lifestyle and medical actions, GoodCell offers the opportunity to look at both sides of the genetic coin that we have been tossed: both the inherited/germline variations, and the accumulated/somatic variations.