29 October 2009

Kansas City: Jewish genetics seminar, Nov. 2-3

If genetics and DNA fascinate you and you live near Kansas City, here's an event you won't want to miss.

The Kansas City Jewish Chronicle reported on the seminar - “Genetics, Jewish Diseases and Personalized Medicine” - which will take place Monday and Tuesday, November 2-3, at the Kansas City, Missouri Public Library, 14 W. 10th St.

Advances in genetics change the way we think about health, disease, and personal identity. The free two-day conference features prominent panelists who will discuss the ethical implications of new discoveries in genetics.

The complete schedule is available here (with links to each speaker's bio). Registration is free, but space is limited. Register online, call (816) 979-1352 or e-mail.

Tracing the Tribe was happy to note that our good friend, author and journalist Jon Entine ("Abraham's Children: Race, identity and the DNA of the Chosen People") is the kick-off speaker at 8.30am Monday, with "Genetic Testing and Jewish Identity: Do our genes tell us who we are?"

While the upcoming seminar is heavy on Jewish presenters and Jewish-related topics, organizer Dr. John Lantos (more below) said anyone who is interested in the field of genetics might find it interesting.

Other Monday programs:

-- “Tay-Sachs and Sickle Cell: Different cultures, different responses to genetic testing”
Rutgers University sociologist Keith Wailoo.

-- “Genetic testing from a traditional Jewish perspective: Can testing before marriage help?”
Thomas Jefferson University radiologist Daniel Eisenberg.

-- “Personalized Medicine and the cost of health care”
Bar Ilan University's Rabbi Noam Zohar and Children's Mercy Hospital pharmacogeneticist Dr. Stephen Spielberg.

-- “Can we redesign ourselves? If so, would we do it well? Thoughts of a genetics consumer” Journalist/bioethicist David Ewing Dunan

Tuesday sessions include:

-- “Eugenics, arranged marriages and gene-therapy responses to genetic disease”
Panel: American University of Judaism professor, Rabbi Elliot Dorff; NIH geneticist Chris Austin; and “Yaakov,” father of a child with a genetic disease

--“Individuals, culture and biology: what does the future hold?”
Northwestern University bioethicist Laurie Zoloth and Dr. John Lantos

The seminar organizer is University of Chicago professor of pediatrics and bioethics Dr. John Lantos, who holds the John B. Francis Chair in Bioethics at the Kansas City-based Center for Practical Bioethics. He has lived in the Kansas City area for a few years and has an office at Children's Mercy Hospital.

Why did Lantos organize this event?

“There have been fascinating developments in genetics, leading to what is called personalized medicine,” Dr. Lantos said. “It’s still mostly a dream, but the idea is that, instead of studying diseases and treatments the way we have since the beginning of time — which is to figure that all people act the same — we can now figure out how people are different and customize treatments for each individual genetic makeup.”
Read the complete program at the link above, as well as the full article (link above) for more information.

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