Genetic and metabolic dietitians can consider entering the field of molecular medicine by focusing on molecular nutrition research within fields such as gene therapy and ‘smart’ foods. There’s a career in nutrition that’s linked to genetics–that of metabolic and genetic dietitian.
The work consists of planning diets based on the metabolic and genetic needs and requirements of an individual as prescribed by a physician specializing in genetic disorders or genetic research. See the article, What Dietitians Need to Know about Genetics. Genetics is central to nutrition therapy since genetic factors influence metabolism.
Dietitians have long been a vital part of the team that supports and treats those with specific genetic conditions, such as chromosomal disorders and inborn errors of metabolism. In these roles, dietitians benefit from a solid understanding of basic genetics principles.
Nutritionists look at smart foods that may override gene variants, whereas geneticists look at the epigenetic tags that switch on or off those gene variants. Some, but not all, genetic and metabolic dietitians/nutritionists wonder whether mankind is destined for a nutritional and genetic divide that may or may not yield a superior species of nutrition-enriched to exercise dominion over the nutritional have-nots. But the entire human genome really needs to be tested before anyone can make any real decisions about genes and foods.
On a smaller scale, though, you can tailor foods to specific genetic needs. That’s part of what genetic and metabolic dietitians research and/or practice. See, Genetic Metabolic Dietitians International (GMDI). They also have a job listings site for members.
Also see the USA article of August 14, 2005, New Degree Programs Produce Chef Scientists. And view the article, “DeBusk RM, Fogarty CP, Ordovas JM, et al. “Nutritional genomics in practice: Where do we begin?” Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 2005;105(4):589-598. Also see the article, “Hot New Careers in Dietetics,” by Mary Franz, MS, RD, LD in Today’s Dietitian, Vol. 9, No.7, page 52.
The nutritional have-nots possibly also could be a genetic subset of humanity. It’s a scary thought, but one discussed by nutritionists when they meet with genetics researchers to discuss the future.
Take a genetic dietitian, for example, having an informal discussion with a geneticist. The geneticist brings up the topic of self-directed evolution, of working with nutritionists and registered dietitians that specialize in genetic and metabolic issues.
The diets are tailored to the DNA in some ways, customized to genetic signatures and expressions based on testing that’s not complete. You really need to test the entire genome to get the big picture and more of the details.
Nutrition-educated scientists and physicians may speak with genetics experts about self-directed evolution, where genetic technology is used as tools to correct health problems in society. But there’s a hidden agenda. The technology also is used to enhance humanity.
That’s what’s frightening to some. The idea that society has traded the 1910 version of misinformed eugenics for newgenics. Metabolic dietitians know that the genetics experts have such correction going on along with research that’s being funded. But who’s funded all the gene therapies doing good for so many people with defective chromosomes or gene variations?
It’s like walking a tightrope. The nutritionist is not yet called in when there’s embryo screening. But is called in when there are numerous genetic therapies. Inherited disease is not wanted, and gene therapy to prevent it is being studied and funded. It’s difficult to find out who’s doing the funding for the average consumer. There are public records, of course.
What nutritionists, including metabolic and genetic dietitians, are being told by geneticists at conferences and conventions is that modification of genes responsible for adverse behaviors such as aggression and gambling addiction are being studied.
Genetics experts reveal to the dietitians who read their research that the technologies studied now will in the future permit healthier babies stronger and smarter in ways that society can only imagine since hearing of the Human Genome Project. Many of these improvements are available.
The improvements are costly. Parents will pay for correction. That seems to be the road genetics is taking, and careers for metabolic and genetic dietitians have been pulled into the arena of this research by looking at studies of how food switches on good gene tags and hopefully will switch off the risky ones.
Here’s another scary part. Correction is expensive. The affluent can afford personalized medicine, including expensive genetic improvements as well as basic genetic corrections to common gene variants causing risks of developing diseases that vary from hypertension to vision problems.
What nutritionists are talking about when they talk back to the geneticists with whom they work is that there’s going to be an economic class associated with genetic correction and improvement just as there’s an economic class today associated with face lifts, tummy tucks, porcelain veneers, and breast augmentation.
It’s about the great economic divide. Just as there’s the digital divide between the haves and have-nots, the computer literate and the technology-avoidant, the future is pointing in the direction of a great economic divide between personalized elective health care with genetic improvement for those who can afford it, and those on the other side of the divide. The poor will not have access to the type of genetic improvement seen as personalized medicine, nutritionists surmise.
When they point this out to the geneticists, they emphasize that it goes beyond selecting a designer baby. The genetically corrected class will be, they fear, selected for better jobs, insurance, credit, and basic health care resulting in better financial security in old age such as buy outs, pensions, insurance after retirement, and other perks enjoyed by the affluent.
Some metabolic and genetic dietitians may discuss with geneticists the possible future that includes benefits and advantages offered to the genetically correct or corrected. The question is what happens to those on the other side of the genetic divide? You find terms such as ‘gene-lining’. (mentioned on page 442 of the best-selling book, War Against the Weak, by Edwin Black).
Nutrition touting smart foods is as much of a branch of genetic technology as personalized healthcare is a branch of predictive medicine. Nutrition and genetics go together as far as researching food as medicine.
Nutrition looks at nature’s randomness. So does genetics. Supernutrition research seems to move from correcting defects and common gene variants that pose disease risks to genetic manipulation of intelligence. Nearly everyone thinking of having a baby imagines the infant being healthy, eager to learn, and born genetically happy rather than genetically depressed most of the time. From the nutritionist’s angle, super foods and smart foods are there to help make people healthier.
The nutritionist’s role in this move towards mass re-engineering of society is that superfoods and whole foods along with supplements to replace the minerals and some natural vitamins taken out of the soil also can help at least 50 percent of the time, since genetics don’t cover 100 percent of what happens to people as they thrive and age. Environment, stress, lifestyle, and nutrition play at least half of the role in what happens to us.
So we end up with nutrition versus mass social engineering. What happens in the future? Is it better food that improves the quality of our grandchildrens’ futures? Or is it, for those with enough money, a globalized genetic industry?
Is there going to be a genetic divide just as there’s a digital divide? And what happens to the present nutritional divide between the fast-food diets and the specialized diets? Where do the customized diets from the metabolic/genetic dietitians stand when not customized for persons with genetic or metabolic issues?
Or does nutrition play a role in either shaping or regulating future generations? Will there be regulation and legislation? Or are we divided between the genetically endowed and those who must rely on nutrition alone because it feels safer and is about eating healthier with conviviality and connectedness?
Sometimes nutritionists ask whether those on the other side of the genetic divide won’t be able to afford super foods. Will commercial drugs will be aimed at the poor just as super nutrition and supplements today are aimed at those that can afford the super foods?
Genetic and metabolic dietitians work in a medical setting and often read reports on what health trends are new in local gene therapy research. One topic might be the upcoming symposium on gene therapy at UC Davis, School of Medicine, in the Sacramento/Davis regional area.
See the site, Annual Gene Therapy Symposia for Heart, Lung, and Blood Diseases. The 9th Annual Gene Therapy Symposium for Heart, Lung, and Blood Diseases will emphasize as its main topic, “Gene Expression.” The symposia will run from November 17, 2010 to November 19th, 2010 at the Sonoma Mission Inn and Spa, Sonoma, CA.
The intent of these annual interdisciplinary scientific symposia is to provide a novel and informal scientific setting for the dissemination and exchange of ideas and research findings by bringing together students, fellows, and junior/senior investigators who do not typically interact at other meetings.
The opportunity for investigators in divergent, yet relevant, fields to interact has significantly declined because of the sheer size and objectives of most meetings. Therefore, the goal is for these annual fall symposia is to provide the opportunity for interactions that are not possible at larger meetings, according to the UC Davis informational website on the symposium.
UC Davis hopes to encourage synergy, facilitate new research directions and collaborations, and enhance current approaches to gene transfer/gene therapy for the treatment of human disease. Presentations focus on unpublished works-in-progress, cutting edge technologies, and key thematic issues. Each year a focus topic is selected.
In the 1990s, a local California gene therapy pioneer advocated research at the University of Southern California. The scientist and team studied a rare hereditary disease called SCIDS, which stands for severe combined immunodeficiency disease. You know it from the media as the “Bubble Boy Syndrome.”
According to the July 13, 2010 Fierce Biotech Research article, Gene therapy targets ‘bubble boy syndrome’ by John Carroll, investigators at Children’s Hospital Boston ramped up a small trial of a new gene therapy to treat “bubble boy syndrome.” The scientists plan to recruit 20 boys with SCID-X1, a rare genetic condition that leaves them unable to fight germs.
A gene therapy trial for the disease had to be halted seven years ago after several patients developed leukemia, a major blow for the gene therapy field. Now researchers say they believe they have eliminated the threat of leukemia and are advancing a new gene treatment that could apply to other rare diseases as well.Without healthy white blood cells to ward of diseases, children with SCIDS usually succumb to disease in childhood. Health trends currently are focusing on how science researches prototypes that might be used to cure hereditary diseases. For more information on the earlier stages of gene therapy in the 1990s, and future health trend predictions for 2010 from the point of view of 1997, check out the book, Visions, published back in 1997, by physicist Michio Kaku. Health trends currently are pointing to how much work it takes. The body has 100 trillion cells, according to the book, Visions. Viruses seem to be ‘aware’ of just how to penetrate those cells. Does that mean that science is headed toward trends that use viruses to get inside a cell and correct the gene mutation?
Researchers look at ‘vectors’ that can be used to move inside each cell. So by neutralizing a virus, scientists can insert a virus into a patient. The neutralized virus isn’t supposed to make the patient sick, but might be able to deliver the correction to the gene.
This is all about the healthy trend called gene therapy. The world’s first gene therapy patient in 1995 focused on a four-year old girl. The outcome of the experiment noted that 50% of the child’s white blood cells had their genetic mechanisms fixed. But gene therapy has a long way to go. A lot of other experiments didn’t work right. Sometimes the body’s immune system attacks the virus. In such cases, the corrected genes can’t replicate.
What’s the current health trend? You need a “smart gene” or smart ‘bomb’ in a cell or gene to move the correction to the right area. After you finish that, then you need to find a way to set the gene to work at exactly the right moment. So far the trend is here, but the where is the correct mechanism to make gene therapy work?
Gene therapy is still in its infancy after 15 years of trying. But the trend is still on its way. It’s a reality check of how long its going to take. Health trends of the near future have a lot to do. Scientists still have to find a cure for polygenic diseases. Those are diseases caused by more than one gene.
The next healthy trend is researching “germ-line therapy.” Current research is on somatic cell gene therapy. The studies now focus on cells which are not involved with reproduction. Manipulating the DNA of human sex cells is called germ-line therapy. The goal is to banish diseases in future generations caused by faulty genes.
It’s a controversial area of health, but a trend that’s coming up in the future.The idea is to eradicate heredity diseases. It’s on one hand tinkering with human DNA. And on the other hand, it’s about preventing another generation from inheriting diseases through faulty genes that nobody would want to inherit.
Ethical questions will arise, for sure. But who wants to pass on the genes for diseases that have more than a risk of happening? That health trend is in its infancy now, perhaps in the minds of researchers, but more in the future because of what mechanics and equipment exists presently.
The field is called molecular medicine. It’s about the mind-body link and also about the future of what happens to diseases caused by genes and passed on from one generation to the next. The question: is all human disease genetic?
And will the next health trend focus on improving the immune system in all living creatures? For further information, browse the paperback book, How to Interpret Family History and Ancestry DNA Test Results for Beginners. Or browse the paperback book, How to Safely Tailor Your Foods, Medicines, & Cosmetics to Your Genes.