ABC News Turn to Scripps Doctor for Heart Questions


Dr. Eric Topol, from our local Scripps Clinic, is the go to doctor on heart issues for ABC News.

His most recent TV interview took place this past weekend regarding the untimely passing of news moderator Tim Russert. Russert passed away due to a heart attack on Friday at the age of 58.

The ABC News story refers readers to a more in-depth interview with Dr. Topol at their online web site. Jake Tapper of ABC News asked Dr. Topol what tests patients can obtain to identify possible signs of a future heart attack and preventative measure people can take to avoid coronary heart disease, the leading cause of death in America.

Dr. Topol is the former head of the cardiovascular program at the world-renowned Cleveland Clinic. The program was the undisputed leader in patient heart care, according to U.S. News and World Report, during his reign. Scripps Clinic has been fortunate to attract Dr. Topol to San Diego to head the Scripps Translational Science Institute.

I’ve had a chance to listen to Dr. Topol speak about his work in genomic medicine. The goal is to translate the recent advances in genomics and the mapping of the human gene into practical applications. To use an analogy, current medicine takes a shotgun approach. As you see on commercials for medications, everyone has a different reaction, whether it be good, bad, or none at all. Genomic medicine will enable doctors to create ‘customized’ medications, based on a person’s genes, which will be much more effective in addressing personal health issues.

Many companies are getting a jump start in offering patients personalized genetic mapping. However, Dr. Topol warns that mapping your genes to identify potential trouble spots needs to be done with caution. This technology is so new that doctors are not ready to provide answers to questions that are raised as a result of the genetic tests. More importantly, the customized cures to address issues still have to be developed.

There can be multiple DNA variations associated with a particular health issue. Researchers have to identify which ones or which combination of variations actually triggers a particular condition. To see what is being identified, take a look at SNPedia. SNPedia is built like the Wikipedia web site with a sole focus on SNPs and their known effects. In the introduction to SNPs, you’ll see what gene variation causes people to have red hair. Beyond the introduction, you may probably won’t understand much of the technical jargon but it is interesting to read what is being identified, such as the variation that is believed to cause the difference between sprinters and endurance athletes.

OK. I’ve digressed long enough from my original introduction of San Diego serving as home to an internationally recognized doctor. However, I ask if any genetic researchers (since we have quite a few in San Diego) can offer something to share with the rest of the public in layman’s terms, please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.

You may also want to take a look at my weekly series on the Biotech Institutes that line the Torrey Pines Mesa.

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One Response to “ABC News Turn to Scripps Doctor for Heart Questions”

  1. Greg says:

    An issue that Californians should be particularly aware of is the coming battle over the right to access your own DNA information. This week genetic testing companies were sent “cease and desist” letters by the CA Dept of Public Health; the battle will be over whether individuals have a right to see their own DNA without authorization and interpretation by a physician.

    The good news is that technology tends to empower individuals over time to have choices, so today we can choose whether to use a travel agent or to book online, and we can choose when to use a home pregnancy test kit and when to see a OB/GYN. The bad news is that some physicians, genetic counselors, and pro-regulation policy wonks are pushing hard to take away choice when it comes to getting access to your own DNA; they are working towards legislation at both state and federal levels (like the FDA) that will say you *must* have a physician’s authorization to order and interpret a DNA test.

    In California, it might make sense to have pro-choice ballot initiative when it comes to your right to access your DNA. In fact, maybe the ultimate California company – Google – ought to help sponsor such a ballot proposal. After all, their mission is to help make information accessible, and the launch of the Google Health program is based around the concept that *you* should be in charge of your own health information.

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