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DNALabs News

The COVID-19 pandemic will eventually come to an end, but the consequences will remain with us for many years and impact the way we live our lives, creating our “new normal.”
 
The consequences from the lockdowns and the pandemic that have had on most individuals' mental health is detrimental. Individuals who did not suffer from previous mental health struggles, now do as a result of the pandemic and its consequences. While it is completely normal to feel signs of stress and worry in uncertain times like these, many individuals do not have the tools necessary to manage their stress.
 
On top of just mental health, the rate of eating disorders has risen as a result of the pandemic. Many individuals have also gained weight as a result of stress eating or bingeing, and on the contrary, many individuals have been undereating and developed anorexia. While being stuck at home, and shifting our routines, many individuals have had different societal pressures, and mixed messaging, while not having the right knowledge of how to best nourish their bodies for their own needs.
 
The “new normal” has also shifted the way individuals exercise. Many individuals who used to belong to gyms, use personal trainers, or go to group fitness classes all had to shift the way they exercised and this change has led to a lack of exercise motivation for many people, simply for the reason that individuals do not know what exercise works best for them, or how to stay motivated on their own.
 
While the month of March is coming to an end, it is important to reflect on what March 2021 represented: both Nutrition Month and Women’s History Month (with International Women’s Day which was celebrated on March 8th).
 
We at DNALabs are proud to continue to serve our client’s needs and deliver results without delays.
 
Our LoveMyHealth™ Lifestyle Genetic Test is a comprehensive lifestyle test that empowers you with personalized and actionable recommendations tailored to your unique genetic makeup. Love My Health offers test categories including mental health, nutrition, women’s health and more. 
 
While we have had a difficult past year, you don’t have to be stuck in a “rut” forever. Avoid the trial-and-error approach and tailor your lifestyle according to your genetic make-up for optimal health and disease prevention.




Moni Lustig, 
Chief Executive Officer


 
 
“What we heard and how we responded.”

A wise person once remarked “When you are not listening you re not learning!”  As entrepreneurs it is incumbent on us to become good listeners. 

Indeed, we continue to listen carefully to what our customers and stakeholders are telling us. We are extremely sensitive to what they have to say, and no comments are too trivial not to be heard. Let me share some of what we have heard from them in recent months. Our customers told us repeatedly how important it is to get test results back in a reasonable period and mentioned that other companies were taking upwards to one month to give them results. Our team worked hard to address the urgency of time by being conscious of time and I might add that we have been successful in providing a 10-business day or less turn around, from swab to final report.  We are not standing still on this, and will continue to seek improvements bit by bit. We have also heard that our customers were telling us that our competitors were slow to update their test reports with new items. For us it is personal, and our team responded by constantly adding new drugs on our MatchMyMeds™ report and other nutritional in-depth information on our LoveMyHealth™ report. Some of our customers like certain Doctor’s offices and Hospitals have asked us to provide customized focused reports that can be unique just for them and their patients. We responded by creating the infrastructure to allow for bespoke reports. Lastly, our customers remain genuinely concerned about the price and value of DNA tests and are confused with the tremendous disparity of prices in the marketplace. Our team understands that price alone should not be a barrier to obtain valuable health information available to everyone. We have responded by working hard with our suppliers to keep our prices competitive and fair. Listening is an attribute that in fact can make a good business great!   

Our work has never been contingent on what we have accomplished to date but rather how we will address what we hear from our customers and stakeholders and how agile and quickly we can respond to their needs, and in the process build a lasting bond of trust and reliability.

We are proud on the path we choose, resilient to be good listeners and driven by goals of wanting to shape what can be possible by never being afraid of trying to turn ideas into realities.    
  
Our customers, stakeholders and everyone who wants to know more about themselves are our heroes and for this we will not waver on our journey.

Join us on the road ahead of treating our own health with the respect it deserves.

Wishing everyone safety and wellness and G-d speed to the conclusion we deserve seeing the end to this pandemic.





Michael S. Kerzner, 
Chief Strategist
Some lesser-known concepts in Genetics
 

Genetics can sometimes be complicated, and like all complicated concepts associated with commercialized products and services, those promoting them (DNA Labs included), often have to over-simplify topics in order to deliver a clear and concise message. This has become especially true in today’s world of social media posts that only focus on headlines and Tweets that are limited to 140 characters. While still oversimplifying in this short newsletter article, I hope to shed some light on some lesser-known concepts in genetics.

Simple “Mendelian” genetics:

Back in the mid to late 1800s, Gregor Mendel, an Austrian monk, introduced a new theory of inheritance based on discrete “units of inheritance”, which we now know are “genes”, that are passed down from parent to offspring, whereby each parent contributes one version (“allele”) of the gene, resulting in the offspring having two copies (together known as the “genotype”). Mendel’s theory of inheritance came about after noticing that certain traits (“phenotypes”) in his pea plants (e.g., stem length, pea shape, flower colours, etc.), were being passed on from generation to generation in predictable ways. He also noticed that certain traits were passed on in either a dominant or recessive manner. An offspring that receives at least one dominant allele will show the dominant trait, whereas an offspring must receive two recessive alleles (one from each parent), in order to show the recessive trait. If the two alleles are the same, this is referred to as homozygous, and someone can be homozygous for the dominant allele OR homozygous for the recessive allele. If the two alleles are different, then this is referred to as heterozygous. If someone is heterozygous for a given gene, they would show the dominant phenotype. Some examples of traits that follow this single gene Mendelian pattern of inheritance include physical traits such as having a widow’s peak (a V-shaped hairline), or hitchhiker’s thumb (thumb curves backward). Hemochromatosis (leading cause of iron overload), is another example of a Mendelian trait. The risk allele is recessive, so both parents would need to pass on a recessive allele in order for their child to inherit the disease. Our LoveMyHealthTM test will let you know if you have a risk of iron overload yourself, or if you are a carrier of the recessive allele and thus risk passing it on to your child. 

Complex multigenic/polygenic traits:

While there are a lot of traits based on single genes that are inherited in this Mendelian pattern, most traits are actually a result of the contribution of multiple genes and of course, environmental factors (e.g., diet, temperature, lifestyle, etc.), may also play a role. Some examples of physical traits that are a result of multiple genes include eye colour, hair colour, height, etc.

Penetrance and Expressivity:

Penetrance is defined as the percentage of people with the genetic mutation who actually show signs of the disease or phenotype; i.e., penetrance explains whether the disease shows up. For example, with Huntington’s disease (which is inherited in a dominant manner), there is complete penetrance, which means that all people carrying the mutation (the “bad” version of the gene) will unfortunately get the disease. The BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, which are well known genes associated with breast and ovarian cancer, show incomplete penetrance, whereby not everyone that carries the risk alleles will go on to develop the disease. Expressivity explains the extent to which a given genotype is expressed at the phenotypic level; i.e., expressivity explains how a disease shows up. In Marfan syndrome for example, the same mutations occur in the FBN1 gene in different patients, however the characteristics of the syndrome widely vary among them.

Nature vs. Nurture and Epigenetics:

Epigenetics is the study of how external factors (such as lifestyle, diet, environment, stress, trauma, etc.) can influence the way our genes work. Unlike genetic variants, such as Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPs), epigenetic variants do not change the A’s, T’s, C’s and G’s of the DNA sequence, but can influence how your body expresses certain genes. Interestingly, epigenetic changes can be reversible (all the more reason to live a healthy lifestyle), and can be passed on from generation to generation. At the molecular level, biologists look at epigenetic changes to DNA via processes such as methylation or histone acetylation. In response to certain external factors, these molecular changes to DNA (for example the addition of methyl groups to the DNA backbone), can change how accessible the associated genes are by literally opening up and unwinding a tangled DNA strand, and thus can influence how those genes are turned on and off.

Autosomes, Sex-linked Genes, and Copy Number Variations:

As mentioned above, we carry two copies of every gene, one from mom and one from dad, and they can be the same (homozygous) or different (heterozygous). While this is the rule, there are some exceptions. Our DNA is packaged in our cells in structures called chromosomes. We have 23 pairs of chromosomes; 22 of them are not sex-linked, or “autosomal”, and these are numbered based on their size, whereby chromosome 1 is the biggest, and chromosome 22 is the smallest of the autosomal chromosomes. The last pair of chromosomes is sex-linked, whereby females carry two (relatively large) X chromosomes, and males have one (relatively large) X and one (relatively small) Y chromosome. So females have two copies of every gene on the X chromosome, while males would only have one. Interestingly, throughout evolution, different animals have come up with different ways to equalize the expression of genes across different biological sexes through a process called dosage compensation. Some organisms compensate by increasing the expression of X-linked genes in males, while other organisms, including humans, actually turn off one of the two X-chromosomes in females. Another exception to the ‘two copies of every gene’ rule is seen as certain genes are commonly found to be duplicated or deleted, which would lead to a Copy Number Variation, or CNV. One example is the duplication of the gene CYP2D6, which is involved in drug metabolism, and tested as part of our MatchMyMedsTM drug compatibility test. Some people carry 3 or more copies of this gene and therefore have higher than normal levels of gene expression and in turn, would have higher levels of CYP2D6 enzyme activity in their cells. These people are known as ultrarapid metabolizers, and may, for example, be at risk of unwanted side effects. Some genes are commonly found to be missing or deleted; so instead of the normal 2 copies, they would have 1 or zero copies of a gene, and would therefore be at risk of having low or no expression of that gene. Examples of genes that are commonly found to be missing are the Glutathione-S-Transferase enzymes, GSTM1 and GSTT1, which are covered as part of our LoveMyHealth-PRO panel. Those with less than 2 copies of either of these genes have a reduced ability to clear toxins from their system via the glutathione pathway and are thus at increased risk for diseases related to oxidative stress including cardiovascular disease, endometriosis, and some cancers. 

While this article is still an oversimplification of the complexities we have in our genes, I hope you learned something interesting in this brief summary of some of the lesser-known concepts in genetics.

 





Dr. Aaron Goldman,
Chief Science Officer

How Vitamin A influences Women’s Thyroid and Reproductive Health
 
When you think of vitamin A, hormones aren’t necessarily the first indication that comes to mind. While its use is most notoriously famed for immunity and eye health, vitamin A binds the retinoid X nuclear receptors (RXR), responsible for the expression of hundreds of genes that influence hormone metabolism, cellular differentiation and reproduction.
 
The gene, BCMO1 (beta-carotene monooxygenase) is responsible for the conversion of beta-carotene into retinol, the active form of vitamin A. Genetic variations in the BCMO1 gene can reduce the enzyme function by up to 69%, leading to 240% higher levels of beta-carotene in the blood. 1 This reduction in beta-carotene to retinol decreases cellular concentrations and bioavailability of retinol.
 
Clinically, high beta-carotene levels are linked to hypothyroidism and amenorrhea, indicating its influence on thyroid and reproductive hormones.
 
Vitamin A and Thyroid
 
Thyroxine, an important hormone produced by the thyroid gland, increases the conversion of beta-carotene to vitamin A (retinol). Hyper-beta-carotenemia (high levels of beta-carotene in the blood) is often seen in those with hypothyroidism. Studies show serum beta-carotene levels are significantly higher in hypothyroidism, while lower in hyperthyroidism.5

 
  • Retinol binds to and modulates the thyroid hormone receptor (TR) 2
  • Animal studies show vitamin A deficient diets result in higher levels of free T4, pituitary TSH and hypothalamic TRH versus controls, while vitamin A supplementation increases hepatic T4 to T3 conversion. 2
  • Patients with high TSH and low or normal fT4 (i.e., primary or subclinical hypothyroidism) show an increase in serum β-carotene levels versus healthy persons. 3
  • In an RCT, 25,000IU of retinol per day for 4-months was shown to normalize TSH levels and increase free T34
  
Vitamin A and Reproduction
 
Retinol is important for oocyte development, fertilization, transport, uterine implantation and fetal development. Interestingly, animal studies show that local intrafollicular carotenoid and retinoid concentrations are dependent on BCMO1 catalytic activity found within granulosa cells.6 In a study involving women with endometriosis undergoing IVF, a higher percentage of high-quality grade 1 embryos and mature oocytes were derived from follicles in the group with the highest tertial concentration of all-trans retinoic acid (ATRA).7
 
In women who are poor converters of BC to retinol, it is important to provide dietary sources of retinol, and reduce the over consumption of beta-carotene rich foods, such as carrots, beets and sweet potatoes. Studies show that in those with low BCMO1 activity due to genetic variations, high consumption of beta-carotene rich foods actually further shuts down intestinal BCMO1 activity, leading to retinol deficiency. This means that increasing the amount of beta-carotene rich foods does not actually improve the function of the BCMO1 enzyme or the conversion to retinol.
 
Follow up Labs
There are follow up labs that practitioners are able to order to understand more about how the BCMO1 gene is affecting beta-carotene levels and vitamin A availability.
  • Retinol
  • Beta-carotene
 
Treatment
The following strategies have been shown to improve beta-carotene absorption and BCMO1 activity
  • Increase protein consumption to 40% of total caloric intake
  • Avoid gluten
  • Avoid additives (MSG)
  • Reduce beta-carotene rich foods and increase dietary retinol
  • Retinol supplementation



Dr. Robyn Murphy, ND
Scientific Advisory Board Member


 


References:
 

1.   Leung WC, Hessel S, Méplan C, et al. Two common single nucleotide polymorphisms in the gene encoding β-carotene 15,15′-monoxygenase alter β-carotene metabolism in female volunteers. FASEB J. 2009;23(4):1041-1053. doi:10.1096/fj.08-121962
2.   Beck-Peccoz P, ed. Syndromes of Hormone Resistance on the Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Thyroid Axis. Vol 22. Springer US; 2004. doi:10.1007/978-1-4020-7852-1
3.   Kiuchi S, Ihara H, Koyasu M, et al. Relation between serum levels of thyroid hormone and serum β-carotene concentrations in patients with thyroid disorders. 2018;6(1):9.
4.   Farhangi MA, Keshavarz SA, Eshraghian M, Ostadrahimi A, Saboor-Yaraghi AA. The effect of vitamin A supplementation on thyroid function in premenopausal women. J Am Coll Nutr. 2012;31(4):268-274.
5.   Aktuna D, Buchinger W, Langsteger W, et al. [Beta-carotene, vitamin A and carrier proteins in thyroid diseases]. Acta Med Austriaca. 1993;20(1-2):17-20.
6.   Murphy R, Malone T. The effect of BCMO1 genetic polymorphisms on conversion of β-carotene to retinol and association to poor oocyte maturation. Intern Med Rev. doi: https://internalmedicinereview.org/index.php/imr/article/view/632
7.   Pauli SA, Session DR, Shang W, et al. Analysis of Follicular Fluid Retinoids in Women Undergoing In Vitro Fertilization. Reprod Sci. 2013;20(9):1116-1124. doi:10.1177/1933719113477487

 

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LoveMyHealth™ by DNALabs is designed to provide insights into the key factors of your health and well-being based on your genomic profile. It empowers you to improve your health and well-being by providing actionable nutrition, exercise and lifestyle recommendations personalized to your unique genetic makeup.

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Ready for Canada’s legalization of cannabis for both medical and recreational use, DNALabs Canada has developed TestMyTolerance™, a cannabis sensitivity test. Informed and responsible use should include your body’s unique response to the various psychoactive and non-psychoactive compounds found in cannabis.

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From our blog

What is DNA?

Your body is made up of billions of tiny cells, working all the time to stay alive by fulfilling different jobs. Each job is done by several small molecules, called proteins. All of the proteins that the cell needs are “coded” by DNA, a long molecule found in the center of each cell.
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