Episode 2: Genetics 101 – The Power of Knowing Your Genetic Code
In this show we cover what DNA is and how changes in your DNA code lead to genetic variants or ‘mutations’. Listeners will understand from Dr. Robyn Murphy and Dr. Aaron Goldman about the value of knowing their genetic code and how it applies to better health. Dr. Murphy is a naturopathic doctor working out of Toronto and Dr. Goldman has a PhD in Molecular Biology and Genetics from Yale University. Music by Bensound.
The content of this podcast has not been evaluated by Health Canada or the FDA. It is educational in nature and should not be taken as medical advice. Always consult a qualified medical professional to see if a diet, lifestyle change, or supplement is right for you. Any supplements mentioned are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Please note that the opinions of the guests or hosts are their own and may not reflect those of Advanced Orthomolecular Research, Inc.
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[0:43] Hello, and welcome to Supplementing Health, a podcast presented by Advanced Orthomolecular Research. I’m your host, Dr. Paul Hrkal. This show is all about applying evidenced-based and effective dietary lifestyle and natural health product strategies for your optimal health. We are going to feature some very engaging clinicians and experts from the world of functional and naturopathic medicine to help achieve our mission to empower people to lead their best lives naturally.
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[1:11] Dr. Paul Hrkal: Hello and welcome to the Supplementing Health Show brought to you by AOR. It’s a show that we talk about everything to do with how we can optimize our health by using nutrition, nutrients, orthomolecular and functional medicine to take your health to the next level.
[1:28] In this show, I’m really happy to be talking about something that you’ve probably heard about: genomics and genetics, and how these two areas, which are almost exactly the same, are connected to how you can optimize your health—what you need to know about your genetics.
[1:49] I’m here with two special guests, Dr. Robin Murphy and Dr. Aaron Goldman. We’re going to let them introduce themselves a little bit. My name is Dr. Paul Hrkal, your host, as usual. Let’s dive right into talking about genetics. So, welcome, guys.
[2:07] Dr. Robin Murphy: Thank you.
[2:08] Dr. Aaron Goldman: Yeah, thanks. It’s great to be here.
[2:09] Dr. Paul Hrkal: Let’s start with introducing ourselves, and just so people know about why I chose you to talk about genetics, we’ll start with you, Dr. Murphy.
[2:20] Dr. Robin Murphy: My name is Dr. Robin Murphy. I’m a naturopathic doctor working out of Toronto. Actually, I’ve been working with AOR as the clinical research advisor for almost two years. Through that work, I’ve had the utmost pleasure and honour to help deliver a genetic test through AOR. I’ve done that with, obviously, the help of—I couldn’t have done it without the help of Dr. Aaron Goldman, so I’ll let you introduce yourself.
[2:51] Dr. Aaron Goldman: Sure. My name is Aaron Goldman. My background is, I have a Ph.D. in molecular biology and genetics from Yale University. I’m from Toronto originally. After my training, I spent a lot of time running a laboratory at Mt. Sinai Hospital, where we did genomics as a service. So we were sequencing, genotyping DNA.
[3:16] At some point, I recognized the cost of getting this information coming down and the knowledge that we have about DNA, it was time to commercialize some products and bring some genetic testing to people. I founded DNA labs, and we work closely with AOR.
[3:35] Dr. Paul Hrkal: Great. It’s awesome for both of you to be here. Thank you so much. What I want to focus on for this show is just unpack this whole idea, as I mentioned, of genetics and genomics and what that has to do with health. Like, why should people care about this because we’re seeing 23andMe, we’re seeing companies that are advertising during the Superbowl.
[4:00] Now, it’s becoming more and more widely available, and there are lots of questions around this. “Should I get this done?” There’s a cost associated with it, so people are wondering what kind of role this plays in their health. Why don’t we start off by breaking it right down to the bottom, just so all of our listeners understand, what are genetics and genomics, and even the difference between the two? We’ll start with you, Dr. Goldman.
[4:29] Dr. Aaron Goldman: Let’s start with, what is DNA? Everyone has heard the term DNA. A lot of people don’t know what DNA is, so we can start there. DNA is a very long, string-like molecule that is in every cell of our body. It’s basically a long code that is represented by letters, the letters As, Ts, Cs, and Gs, which you might have seen in movies like Attica and other places. Those letters in a certain order provide information that tells us who we are and makes us who we are.
[5:12] Dr. Paul Hrkal: Like a blueprint. It’s almost like a bit of a map, a bit of a code.
[5:15] Dr. Aaron Goldman: Exactly. Actually, one of the most amazing things that our bodies do is we have machinery in our cells that package all that information into the cells. If you take the DNA out of one microscopic cell in our body, take the cell that you can’t even see out. Inside that cell is a nucleus, which is even smaller. Inside that nucleus, if you stretch out all the DNA that’s in there, it will be two meters long. Imagine packaging all that up into one tiny little space. Actually, if you take all the DNA in your whole body, it will wrap around the solar system twice.
[5:48] Dr. Paul Hrkal: The solar system, like Pluto. Wow.
[5:50] Dr. Aaron Goldman: Right. I’m not sure Pluto is included in that, but it’s big data. There’s a lot of information.
[5:56] Dr. Paul Hrkal: Is all that data usable?
[5:58] Dr. Aaron Goldman: I think we’re at the tip of the iceberg moment right now, where we’re starting to understand what that information holds. I mentioned the letters. There are actually six billion letters in your DNA. In every cell in your body, it’s the same six billion: three billion from mom, three billion from dad. About 1% of that encodes genes, which we can get into in terms of understanding how the DNA is used.
[6:34] Dr. Paul Hrkal: So only 1% of all that stuff, that code, actually tells the body what to do and how to function?
[6:41] Dr. Aaron Goldman: Yeah. That 1%, our protein-coding genes, so it’s DNA that has the instructions to make proteins, which does most of the stuff in our body. All the information, all the DNA between genes, the other 99%, used to be called junk DNA because people didn’t know what it meant. But now, we’re learning more and more about it.
[7:04] Continuing that information, amongst other things, is information on where and when to express. You might have a gene that’s for like an eye pigment. Around the gene would be the information around when to put it on, like when to turn that gene on, so during development, how much to put it on, and so on.
[7:29] Dr. Robin Murphy: I think it’s interesting, as well, is it’s almost like an evolutionary blueprint because they’re actually showing that we mimic other species, other animals, other lifeforms out there have similar DNA.
[7:45] Dr. Aaron Goldman: Yeah. Even plants and bacteria.
[7:46] Dr. Robin Murphy: Yeah. Plants and fungus. I think I heard something crazy like an earthworm has up to—quote me if I’m wrong—but 98% similarities in certain sections of our DNA.
[8:00] Dr. Aaron Goldman: Yes. Throughout evolution, if something worked, then that would be selected for. If it’s not working, then it would be selected against. Those genes that work, when they’re important in things like cell cycle and gene regulations turning things on and off, those processes happen whether you’re a bacterium, or fungus, or human.
[8:22] Dr. Paul Hrkal: Yes, of course.
[8:23] Dr. Robin Murphy: That’s really genomics. The term genomics is about how the DNA is getting turned on and off, how it’s interacting with the environment and the study of that as a whole. Whereas, genetics is just looking at the coding.
[8:36] Dr. Paul Hrkal: Actually, just the code. Not so much the application of it.
[8:40] Dr. Robin Murphy: How the code changes the proteins and the outward expression of that activity, but not necessarily the interaction with the environment.
[8:49] Dr. Paul Hrkal: How many genes in total do we have in our human genome?
[8:53] Dr. Aaron Goldman: About 20,000 genes.
[8:54] Dr. Paul Hrkal: Okay. 20,000 genes. This 20,000 set of genes that everybody has that you get from your mom and dad is it changeable? Is this whatever we have? Is that our destiny?
[9:09] Dr. Aaron Goldman: The answer is no-ish. The code itself, so the actual sequence in the letters doesn’t change throughout your life. Of course, if you’re in the sun too much, you have UV damage. DNA does change, but those changes are not inherited. They’re not passed on. So, typically, when we think of DNA, the code at birth is the same as the code at the end of your life.
[9:40] Where you can change it is in terms of methylation, which I think we could have a whole podcast on that another time. It’s called epigenetics, so about genetics. There are certain things that are inherited that can change the DNA. But also, just lifestyle. If you know you have a certain risk of high-enzyme activity, you can lower that enzyme activity with certain lifestyle changes.
[10:08] Dr. Robin Murphy: And you’re changing how the gene is getting expressed with, say, epigenetics, not necessarily the code itself. You can silence genes, and that silence will exist through all the sequential cells that are being produced from that, so it’s a learning tool for the cells.
[10:27] Dr. Paul Hrkal: To summarize for people that are not familiar with genetics, what you’re saying is that we have this code that doesn’t change: that basic code. However, the way that it’s expressed is influenced by the cellular environments, which, therefore, is being influenced by our external environment. Is that a fair way of assessing that?
[10:49] Dr. Robin Murphy: Yes.
[10:49] Dr. Aaron Goldman: I think so, yeah.
[10:50] Dr. Robin Murphy: I like the analogy of thinking of it like a library. You have your total library there on the wall. Say you’re going into a medical office. That one section has the medical books. In that office, those people within that office are going to use the medical books. That’s the part of the DNA that they’re using.
[11:12] There are mechanisms for the cell to say, “Hey, I want you to use this DNA, this section, at different times, at different places.” This is what you’re going to do, the same with the nerve cell or a muscle cell. It’s getting information; it’s getting instructions on when and how to express the DNA.
[11:30] Then when we look at lifestyle application, when we look at lifestyle genetics—
[11:34] Dr. Paul Hrkal: I was just thinking that.
[11:35] Dr. Robin Murphy: Yeah. We know that. Say, for example, you’re eating a sandwich, or you’re eating a salad. You know your body is very energy-preserving. It’s not going to produce something unless you absolutely need it.
[11:47] When you’re starting to change the internal environment, and you’re eating a sandwich, or you’re drinking a glass of carrot juice, then that will signal certain genes to get turned on to produce enzymes to be able to take the vitamins in the carrot juice and then absorb it, transport it, as well as deliver it to the cell, and then produce it into a usable form, say vitamin A that we can extract from that. So our bodies are constantly responding to the environment through both short-term changes, like with the dietary, but also long-term changes.
[12:27] Dr. Paul Hrkal: It’s almost like these smart thermostats that are adapting to what the environment is. Your environment of the body is poor nutrition or cold. If we’re using a thermostat environment, the body is going to change based on that.
[12:42] So, I think you had a perfect segue into—I think when I look at this whole area that’s booming about lifestyle, genetics, and genomics like you said you’ll ultimately—I think you touched on this a little bit, but why should we care about this? Why should the average person walking around out there and is interested in improving their health, why should we care about understanding our genes? Can we just eat healthily, in general, and by default, express the good genes?
[13:21] Dr. Robin Murphy: I think a great question is, what makes you, you? If you want to understand who you are, what impacts your health, where does that information come from? Part of it is kind of the old dilemma or debate around nature versus nurture. We know that nature, our genetics, makes up a significant part of who we are. It lays the groundwork and the set of instructions and information and blueprint of how our bodies are responding to the environment.
[13:56] So if we’re going to ignore that information, then there are some very relevant, important factors and pieces of information that we can get to help us educate what type of lifestyle changes we can make. Yeah, there’s a lot of blanketed great health advice:
- exercise regularly
- eat healthy
- decrease stress
- avoid chemicals
All of these things. But does everybody do that on a regular basis? I think in the age of information overload, we have to be very precise with what type of information, what type of recommendations we’re going to follow. We have to know, is this going to have a big effect, and is this going to be pertinent to me?
[14:46] Dr. Paul Hrkal: Aaron, as somebody that works in a lab setting, when somebody asks you, “Why would somebody care about their genetics?” What is the response that you give?
[15:00] Dr. Aaron Goldman: I think Robin summarized it nicely. You mentioned earlier the example of vitamin A. I can speak about that just for a second. If you’re drinking carrot juice or eating a sweet potato, you’re getting beta carotene into your system.
[15:19] Dr. Paul Hrkal: That’s that yellow colour. That’s that really bright orange colour.
[15:22] Dr. Aaron Goldman: Exactly, yeah. Your body actually converts that to vitamin A. We have an enzyme that does that. We have a gene that encodes that enzyme, and some people have genetic variants within that gene. That means you can’t do that conversion very well. You can eat a truckload of carrots, and you’re getting a lot of beta carotene in your system, but you might have a risk of a vitamin A deficiency.
[15:51] Understanding that then you can go and make sure you’re eating things that have vitamin A, like animal products. Or, if you’re vegan, you can supplement with vitamin A. Understanding those genetic variations that we have can help us make little tweaks to make sure that we’re getting all the nutrients that we need.
[16:13] Dr. Paul Hrkal: That’s a good example where, in theory, eating lots of something or doing something is good for you, but there’s a lot of nuance, and I think people experience this where they’re like, “I’ve tried a certain type of diet or a certain way of eating,” and they’re like, “I don’t feel good.” Or it doesn’t sit right with their body, their appetite habits.
[16:37] So, I’m intrigued by the application of genetics in personalizing a person’s health. I think that, as a clinician, Robin, that’s where I think you focus on taking the information that is in a report and then applying it to that person’s specific health goals and health conditions. Right?
[17:01] Dr. Robin Murphy: Yeah. It’s what we call precision medicine. It has a predictive value. So we’re anticipating what could be the problems, so we’re preventing those. But then, it’s also giving us tools to then start to look because there are literally millions of variables out there. It also helps to narrow in, where do you start? It’s a blueprint. It’s a roadmap.
[17:26] What other testing needs to get done? What would be valuable for surveillance? If people have increased risk for heart disease, they can tell because maybe there’s going to be a family history of it, but just because there’s a family history doesn’t mean that you’re going to get that disease per se.
[17:44] Dr. Paul Hrkal: That’s right.
[17:45] Dr. Robin Murphy: What we’re starting to understand is now that we’re diving into some of these pathways and understanding why people are developing cardiovascular disease, what susceptibilities they have to stress, or the inflammatory pathway, or environmental chemicals, which are becoming a burden these days.
[18:06] We’re starting to see where some of these genetic susceptibilities that weren’t a problem 50 years ago start to contribute to some of the epidemics that we’re seeing with cancer, with heart disease, and so on.
[18:20] Dr. Paul Hrkal: So, genetics is not the only thing that is contributing to these, but it is a part of it, and we can use that information to then manipulate our environment to change that, the expression. There are two questions that came to mind. I think a lot of people get stuck on these. Is it all or none if somebody is missing a gene?
[18:43] You mentioned Aaron, the expression of a gene. My understanding is that there are usually multiple variants of that gene; that term was used. Can you describe a little bit about that for people that may not be familiar with it because it’s not quite, in every case, black and white? Either I’m missing something, or I’m not. Right?
[19:04] Dr. Aaron Goldman: Yeah. Absolutely. Going back to the DNA again, the DNA is a long code. Although humans are something like 99.9% the same, when you’re talking about 1% of six billion, that’s quite a lot of differences. We all carry millions of genetic variants.
[19:26] What these are, like changes in a letter—we talked about the As, Ts, Cs, and Gs, so in a certain gene, you might have a G instead of an A. It might have no effect on the protein at all or the outcome. It might physically change the protein, so instead of an alanine, you now have a threonine at that location, or whatever, change the amino acid.
[19:51] That change could make, going back to the vitamin A example, it could make that enzyme not work at all, so you can’t convert vitamin A. It could make the enzyme work faster. It could make the enzymes do other things. That’s one thing.
[20:06] Then the other thing to keep in mind is, we have two copies of every gene—one from mom and one from dad. I always hate to use the word good and bad, or normal and abnormal because, with DNA, we all have these variants.
[20:18] But if you have the “bad” copying of a gene, then you inherit that from dad, but from mom, you inherit the good copy. Then, in many cases, you could have an intermediate effect. So, instead of fast and slow, you could have medium. But that’s not always the case. Sometimes, medium is just as good as fast, and sometimes it’s not good enough.
[20:42] Dr. Robin Murphy: There’s a context to this, as well, which I think is important to understand. For those who can’t visualize this or don’t have a science background, if you think about the English language, and if you think about the letters in the alphabet and how we’re creating sentences, then those sentences are creating paragraphs, which are creating chapters, which are creating books. That’s a way to think of what this code is representing.
[21:10] In a sentence, if you change a letter in a word, sometimes that change can change the whole meaning of that sentence. But sometimes, it doesn’t. So this is where we talk about—they’re called synonymous or nonsynonymous changes. Is it actually changing what the genes do? It then tells the cell how to make a protein, how to make a structure. So, is it changing that structure? And if it does, is that structure having a big effect on that overall system?
[21:42] Dr. Paul Hrkal: Good analogy. Sub out every A with a Z. You may be able to know some letters or words, and you may not. That paragraph may become dysfunctional, so that gene may become dysfunctional. Right?
[21:56] Dr. Robin Murphy: Yeah.
[21:56] Dr. Aaron Goldman: Likewise, imagine the sentence, “I bought a car.” If there’s an insertion of an r there, and it says, “I brought a car,” it still makes sense. The meaning changes a little bit, but you can see how little changes differ—changes that could have different impacts.
[22:16] Dr. Robin Murphy: Yeah.
[22:17] Dr. Paul Hrkal: So you can turn genes on or off, but the degree of the action of that enzyme can sometimes vary. That depends on the enzyme. Like you said, sometimes faster may actually have an effect that is not necessarily bad or good, it just breaks down a neurotransmitter, a neuro signalling molecule faster.
[22:39] I think that gives everybody that’s listening, a good idea about some of the changes in the variability with genetics, and that it isn’t just your destiny. There is definitely some change. Putting myself in a consumer’s perspective, when you guys are presenting about this topic, and you present all over Canada about genetics. For each of you, what are the top three questions that each of you gets?
[23:10] I’ll start with you, Robin, and think back. What are the hot-button topics that people are asking, in general, when they’re just getting introduced to the topic? I know for me, one of the top questions that I get is, “What’s happening to my data, my genetic data? Is it safe?” And the whole thing about privacy is being a big issue now.
[23:35] Dr. Robin Murphy: Yeah. Sometimes, I get the issue about privacy and some of these big conglomerate companies and what they’re going to do with the information. I think there are still a lot of misconceptions about when these companies are using people’s data, what that actually means. So, there’s some education that I think maybe Aaron can maybe expand on.
[23:59] Dr. Aaron Goldman: Yeah. First of all, both in Canada and the U.S., there are laws against genetic discrimination now, so an employer or an insurance company is not allowed to even see genetic information, let alone make decisions based on it. That’s one thing that should give North Americans some relief.
[24:24] In terms of the research that happens with genetic information, most of that research does happen anonymously. So, when you buy a genetic test from one of these consumer genomics companies, there’s a consent form, and you choose—you probably opt-out of research, but I think 80% of the people opt-in. So, their DNA is used anonymously.
[24:52] Dr. Paul Hrkal: In a sense, it’s building a science that’s still growing. One of the other big points that skeptics about this have is, “Do we really know the true health effects of if I interpret my genes, rather than on or off.” I’ve heard that a couple of times. My response to that always is, “If you said this 20 years ago or 15 years ago, I’d say maybe there’s some validity, but now, the research”—you know. You guys are in the research.
[25:19] It’s expanding almost on a daily basis. There are some things, not everything, but there are some things that we can hang our hat on, so to speak, that is quite well evidence-based and the clinical application strong.
[25:33] Dr. Aaron Goldman: Yeah, and I can touch on that a little bit. One question I get asked all the time is, “How do you know? How do you know that this variant leads to this outcome?” Traditionally, in academia, there are studies called genome-wide association studies. You’re looking at an association between a certain outcome and a genetic variant.
[25:54] If you imagine you take 1,000 people that have a certain vitamin deficiency, and 1,000 people that don’t, now we have the technology to look at everyone’s DNA. So, you look at the DNA of one group and compare it to the other and do some statistics. You realize that the group that has a vitamin deficiency has a greater likelihood of having a certain genetic variant. It doesn’t mean that every single person in both groups have the same genetic variants, but that’s typically how it’s done.
[26:27] To take it a step further, what these big consumer genomics companies are doing, they’re collecting 500,000 or 800,000 pieces of data on you when you buy their test. They’ll give you information on your ancestry, on whether your thumb can bend backwards, you can smell asparagus in pee, and so on.
[26:52] But what they’re really doing with that data is then they’re doing surveys. The example I gave in academia is a thousand. Now, it would be a very large academic study, whereas some of these big companies have millions of samples. The statistical power is huge.
[27:06] One company, 23andme, actually did this where they asked: “Who gets motion sickness?” So, if they have a couple of thousand people replying with answers, that’s much—even though it’s self-reported, which has its own issues, having that huge number is very powerful. You can ask who has motion sickness, who doesn’t, and then you can figure out basically drug targets from that.
[27:34] Dr. Paul Hrkal: I was just going to say that information is invaluable when you’re looking at, “Do I create a drug? Is it worth creating a drug for that based on genetics?” I think, in general, the trend in medicine is going toward, as you said, Robin, precision and personalization.
[27:51] There will come a time, in the near future, where you pee into your smart toilet bowl, and it will tell you—actually, this is not sci-fi anymore. This is happening, legit, like, “Yeah, you know what? Your kidney function is good today, Mr. So-and-so.” Or “Your blood sugar is high. Watch your breakfast.” That is one example that you can do in real-time.
[28:17] Now, another piece of the pie is something like genetics. Now, as a clinician, it informs my decision of, “Do I need to do additional lab testing that will tell me real-time information? I think that is very valuable, and ultimately, even though there is some hesitation on behalf of the public with some of the information we just talked about, and what’s being done with it, overall, there are legal things in place, and there also is, in general, we’re trending toward a real personalized precision way of giving medicine, ultimately.
[28:57] Dr. Aaron Goldman: Yeah. I think you just touched on a very important point, which is a lot of people, clinicians think we’re already doing too much lab testing. But a genetic test can actually tell you, you don’t have to worry about these types of tests, but these ones are the more important ones. So, it can guide you in that direction.
[29:16] Dr. Robin Murphy: Yeah, and I think as far as development goes, for the skeptics out there that are saying we don’t know enough, it’s like what is the point where we do know enough? Can we say that the lab tests that we’re doing now that are standard are the best lab tests that are out there? Have we discovered everything about health, about the body?
[29:38] The technology is always developing. We’re in an age of rapid, accelerated growth and the technology field, the way that we approach health, I think, is going to differ quite a bit in the next five years. There are a lot of AI platforms that are being developed and different scanning systems. Then, we’re looking at whole-genome sequencing.
[30:00] Dr. Paul Hrkal: Probably in five years, we’re going to look at genetic testing being like, “That’s archaic. That’s like a foregone conclusion.”
[30:06] Dr. Robin Murphy: Or it’s going to be standard.
[30:08] Dr. Paul Hrkal: Or it will be standard in the same way that we consider a complete blood count, like old school. When I say archaic, I don’t mean invaluable. I just mean it’s just something that is so understood, that it’s like, “Here. Do this panel.”
[30:21] I think it’s important to bring out in terms of the safety, as well, is that we’re talking about lifestyle genetics. This is not a test for if you have cancer risks, or if I’m going to get a certain pathology. A lot of people’s concerns center around the fact that they’re scared of getting information that they’re now going to feel like they’re living with this foreboding diagnosis for their whole lives. That’s not what these types of tests are focused on. That’s more of a hospital setting.
[30:50] Dr. Robin Murphy: Yeah, and just to answer your question about a common question that I get all the time is, and what we touched upon earlier, “Is there anything I can do about my genes?” The point to mention is that we’re looking at lifestyle genetics. We’re not looking at disease-based risks. So we are looking at areas where we know these genes respond specifically to lifestyle interventions. There absolutely are things that you can do.
[31:24] Dr. Paul Hrkal: There are actual things.
[31:25] Dr. Robin Murphy: Yeah.
[31:26] Dr. Paul Hrkal: We’ll talk more about that as we get into Part 2. There’s so much information here. It’s hard to jam it all into one session. I think what we’ve talked about gives us a really good background. Before we wrap up the show, what I want to talk about is both of you are instrumental in creating a task called MyBlueprint that has been launched in collaboration with DNA labs, which you both work with. You founded that, along with AOR as well.
[32:01] AOR is a natural health product company. That is because the trend is how do we personalize using nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. I think that was something that AOR felt was really, really part of that innovative next step. But, briefly tell us about this MyBlueprint test and why specifically synch all this expertise and education that you both have into creating something like this?
[32:31] Dr. Robin Murphy: I can speak from my perspective as a clinician. Because I’ve been in the field of genetics for the last six years, I would say, within my clinic, the problem that we were seeing with certain genetic testing is how the information was getting delivered. Is it in a cohesive way that we can take actionable, easy-to-understand information, and apply that into a clinical study?
[32:59] When you look at some of the other direct-to-consumer tests, it’s quite overwhelming the amount of information that can be delivered. I really appreciated about when I first came across DNA labs and their tests is how the information was laid out. What my role has been is looking at it from a clinical standpoint.
[33:22] Now that we know the genetic-based alterations that do have an evidenced-based effect that we can actually alter by changing environmental triggers or supplementation or treatment strategies, how do we deliver that information and what are the next steps?
[33:41] So, that’s where this whole collection of members and companies came together is how does AOR put that into a platform that now people can understand. They can get a shortlist of what the right products, right lifestyle suggestions, recommendations, where to focus.
[34:05] Dr. Paul Hrkal: Yeah. I think that half the battle with any sort of test is the interpretation of it. If it’s easy to understand—we’re not geneticists. People usually get overwhelmed when you say, “SNP” which is the substitution of one of those letters you were talking about. I think that this is timely to come out with something that is easily understood. I’d like to hear from you, Aaron.
[34:34] Dr. Aaron Goldman: Exactly. We worked really hard to make the report easy to use, easy to understand. We provide a take-home message, but also, we provide some of the backgrounds so that if you do want to dive deeper into it or take your report to a naturopathic doctor or another healthcare provider, we can do that.
[34:54] We touched on the vitamin A example before. Another example is with iron. There are genetic variants that are associated with having a risk of iron deficiency. There are other genetic variants associated with the risk of too much iron, iron overload. People are running out, buying iron supplements, because they read somewhere that it’s good to have iron.
[35:19] Dr. Paul Hrkal: Because I’m tired, for example, and they may not test, or they may not have gotten a full workup to inform them.
[35:27] Dr. Aaron Goldman: Yeah. Since these genetic variants are well characterized and testable, we thought this would be a great thing to come out with.
[35:39] Dr. Paul Hrkal: I’m glad you did. We’re going to talk a lot more about the actual applications of genetic testing. We’re going to look at the specific areas and the specific categories that we can get great information. We’ll talk about that in Part 2 of our show.
[35:57] I want to thank you both for sharing your expertise and sharing your insights. This has been a great learning experience, and I know for everybody listening, they’re going to feel they have a much better understanding of genetic testing, in general. In Part 2, we’re going to dive into some of the specific ways they’re going to notice an impact on their health.
[36:19] Dr. Robin Murphy: Great.
[36:19] Dr. Aaron Goldman: Thank you.
[36:19] Dr. Paul Hrkal: Thanks so much, guys.
* * * Outro Music * * *
[36:40] Thank you for listening today. For more information about our guests, past shows, and future topics, please visit aor.ca/podcasts. Do you have a topic that you want us to cover? We invite you to engage with us on social media to request a future topic or email us at [email protected] We hope you tune in again next week to learn more about supplementing your health.
[End of episode 37:09]