GUEST: DR. SAMANTHA YAMMINE, “SCIENCE SAM”
– DR. SAMANTHA YAMMINE
“Genomics? Isn’t that just Genetics? Are we making up words now?”
Look, we get it.
Nice Genes! host Dr.Kaylee Byers talks with neuroscientist and science
communicator Dr. Samantha Yammine (‘Science Sam’) to get the
downlow on what “genomics” actually means. They’ll explore extinct
species, secret photographs, and the DNA jungle that lies within our brains;
all just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to discovering the fabulous
possibilities of genomics. Suit up and put your nerd snorkels on, people, because we’re diving in!
“What the heck is genomics?”
“A very merry tale of gene editing and rats.”
“The brains behind genomics.”
Dr. Kaylee Byers 00:05
I want to begin today by telling you about a quest. It’s about a search to find the scientific Holy Grail of human life.
News Anchor 00:11
The International Program to sequence the human genome offers the prospect of dramatic developments in medical science…
Dr. Kaylee Byers 00:19
October 1990, 20 institutions, six countries, and hundreds of scientists from around the world have united under one common purpose to sequence the entire human genome. The Human Genome Project.
News Anchor 00:33
We’re about to take a giant leap in understanding…
Dr. Kaylee Byers 00:35
The process of sequencing our DNA, our genetics, the very fabric that makes up a human being would be an invaluable inward looking lens, a lens that would help us to understand not just what microscopic DNA shaped ladders built us, but how we are connecting to everything else around us and our own humanity. Then, in the year 2000, the president of the United States stepped on stage and announced to the world:
President Clinton 01:00
We’re here to celebrate the completion of the first survey of the entire human genome.
Dr. Kaylee Byers 01:08
But not so fast. Sam, how complete was the human genome project in 2000?
Dr. Samantha Yammine 01:16
When the first full human genome was announced, I believe it was about 92% of what we expected the full genome to look like.
Dr. Kaylee Byers 01:26
It wouldn’t be until 2021 that the complete human genome would be mapped. And only this year 2022, the results were officially published. So, it begs the question, this holy grail of science, this titan of human understanding of our very existence, are we only now beginning to unfold its mystery, and what incredible possibilities are yet to be uncovered from that famous twisted helix of life?
Hi, I’m Dr. Kaylee Byers, and welcome to Nice Genes! a podcast brought to you by Genome British Columbia. Over the course of this season, we’re going to be exploring how integral the study of genomics is to deciphering some of the most incredible questions of life on this planet, and hopefully other ones too, but I’m still waiting on that callback from Canada’s Space Agency… In this episode, we’re going to pull on one tail of the DNA thread to reveal the mosaic of possibilities that lies behind genomics. So, step one, what the heck is genomics in the first place? To get us started, our intrepid producers hit the streets to get the answer.
What is genomics?
Streeter #1 02:41
Genomics, well since I’ve never heard this word before, I’m gonna take a guess, and say it’s the insides of me, not the outsides, like genes?
Streeter #2 02:52
I don’t know what is Gehomics?
Streeter #2 02:55
What is it? Never even heard of it?
So what do you think genetics is?
Streeter #3 03:00
Genetics is? What makes up your characteristics and your… basically like your eye color, hair color, and what you look like…
Do you know what the differences between genetics and genomics?
Streeter #2 03:11
There is no difference? Just a word, that’s a difference.
Dr.Kaylee Byers 03:18
So, let’s just say genetics versus genomics, it takes a bit of explaining. Luckily, I’ve pulled in Dr. Samantha Yammine, or more affectionately known as Science Sam, on the interwebs. Science Sam is a superstar at communicating big scientific ideas by turning them into bite-sized and usable information. She joins me to unpack these genes. Hi, Sam. How are you?
Dr. Samantha Yammine 03:44
Hey, Kaylee, so excited to be here.
Dr.Kaylee Byers 03:47
So, Sam, to start off, can you tell me a bit about how your research background relates to genetics?
Dr. Samantha Yammine 03:53
I am a cell biologist and molecular biologist by training. And in particular, I study the cell and molecular biology of cells in the brain. So, I got to play a little bit with a special part of genomics, I’m excited to tell you about later.
Dr. Kaylee Byers 04:07
So, these terms genetics and genomics, they seem like the same thing. So, what’s the main difference between them?
Dr. Samantha Yammine 04:15
It’s true, a lot of people will even use them interchangeably. But genetics, in particular, is the study of genes and their roles in heritability, things that can be inherited. So, when you’re studying genes and the things that they can cause and the traits that they code for, that’s genetics. But a lot of the time, when it comes to human traits, or any trait, really in many organisms, it’s not just one single gene that’s encoding something or controlling how something will turn out. It’s often an interplay of many different genes. So that’s where genomics comes in. And this is a bit of a newer field that’s looking at all of the genes, let’s say in a human and putting them all together, understanding their interactions and the interactions that the environment and can have on how those genes are used. That’s the field of genomics. And when I say it’s relatively modern, we’re looking at really the last few decades where we had the DNA sequencing technology to start to look at whole genomes, you weren’t having to spend years mapping a single gene for a disease, now we can look really quickly at the entire genome and an individual, it’s a lot of data, over 3 billion base pairs. That’s, that’s a lot to run on your regular computer.
Dr. Kaylee Byers 05:30
Yeah, and I was going to ask you a little bit about why that distinction between genetics and genomics is important when they still are both involved with our genes, like what does genomics bring us that maybe genetics didn’t?
Dr. Samantha Yammine 05:42
Genomics is letting us bring together the knowledge we have from studying genetics and put it all together. Looking at the interplay of multiple genes, if you have this mutation on its own, it’s not, you know, it doesn’t maybe mean anything. But if you have this mutation plus this other mutation plus you smoke, now your predisposition for lung cancer, for example, is much higher. So, genomics is putting the things we’ve learned from genetics together at scale across the whole genome, also factoring in the environment, which is a whole other variable of complexity.
Dr. Kaylee Byers 06:15
All right, so thinking about our genomes, can you tell us a bit more about what our genome is up to in our body?
Dr. Samantha Yammine 06:22
Something that’s always fascinated me and never ceases to blow my mind is that nearly every cell has basically the same set of genetic instructions, there’s the same genes in every cell, there could be some slight variations there between them. But what really makes the difference the reason why your skin cell looks different than a brain cell looks different than a blood cell looks different than a muscle cell, is the way that the DNA is used. And so…
Dr. Kaylee Byers 06:50
What Sam is describing, I might have a useful metaphor to help explain. I’m going to describe genetics versus genomics in a way that takes me back to when I was just a tiny human trying to learn my first musical instrument, the piano. Our DNA, our notes, and those notes are A, T, G, and C…
Dr. Samantha Yammine 07:10
…we call them adenine, cytosine, guanine, and thymine, these letters…
Dr. Kaylee Byers 07:14
For the sake of picturing it, a whole chord is a gene, it’s a few of those notes together. One chord equals one gene, play another chord, that’s two genes. Now, a genome is the whole range of keys on the piano, it’s even the legs on the piano, the covering, the cup of coffee, you may or may not have accidentally spilled on the bench, the whole thing, and more importantly, how each chord builds on the other to make a beautiful DNA melody that represents how all of those genes and notes come together as a larger unit, or a genome.
Dr. Samantha Yammine 07:58
It’s expressing itself by expressing its DNA, and that lets every cell become a little bit different because of DNA structure and the way that it’s able to compress and become packed into these tightly wound chromosomes.
Dr. Kaylee Byers 08:12
With that in mind, we’re going to explore a few different pieces of DNA music. Science Sam and I have three stories we’re going to share with you. They not only highlight the difference between genomes and genomics but also show us the incredible possibilities of genomics.
We begin with the tale of the Christmas Island rat. No, not that kind of Christmas. There rats from Christmas Island, South of Indonesia in the Indian Ocean, is a 135 square kilometre island. Back in 1897, paleontologist Charles William wrote that when the sun rose, the land would come alive. Little reddish, brown furry critters would move about the land, and we had a swarm. And then there were none. Eighteen years later, they had vanished, gone extinct. But perhaps not forever. The going story is that the rats may have been wiped out by disease brought over from ships arriving on the island. Disease brought by another species of rat, the Norway rat, a species so successful at following humans around that it’s now found in cities all over the world. Even though the Christmas rat had gone extinct, some of their pelts were preserved at the Oxford Museum of Natural History. So, a couple of researchers set off to try to sequence DNA from these tiny pelts. By observing the DNA, they found that just over 95% of it matched with another existing species. A distant cousin, you could say. The match was the Norway rat. The same rat that might have led to the Christmas Island rat’s demise. And if you have heard stories about resurrecting other species, like the dodo or woolly mammoth, then you might see where this is going. The researchers are now looking at how they can use that genetic blueprint to make a few adjustments. And voilà, your Norway rat genome is now playing a different Christmassy tune.
So, Sam, as you know, I have a bit of a love for rat-related science stories. So obviously, the first story I was hoping we could chat about would be about rats. And what I find really interesting about this story is that it sort of flips this common narrative about rats on its head. So instead of trying to exterminate them, we’re exploring the potential of bringing a species of rat back. And to do that, one tool that’s being explored is gene editing. Can you tell us a little bit about what gene editing is?
Dr. Samantha Yammine 10:53
And I just feel the need to let listeners know that Kaylee indeed has a rat poster on the wall behind her. And that is how far her love of rats goes. That’s important content!
Dr. Kaylee Byers 11:06
It’s very on-brand.
Dr. Samantha Yammine 11:08
Gene editing is a way for us to make changes to the DNA in a given organism or in a cell in a dish. It’s a way for you to look and see one variation and change it to something that could then change the protein that gets made. And in the context of disease, this could be helpful for correcting mutations that may lead to disease.
Dr. Kaylee Byers 11:31
And within that gene editing toolkit, there’s a specific tool called CRISPR, that has definitely been making the rounds through, you know, the public, we see it in the news. So, what is CRISPR?
Dr. Samantha Yammine 11:42
CRISPR is a game-changer. It’s a new tool for gene editing. It’s a gene-editing technology that comes from microorganisms; we discovered it in microorganisms, it’s part of the adaptive immune system for many microbes. But the cool way that it can be used for gene editing it’s the best tool we have so far to precisely edit a genome; it lets you choose exactly where in the genome you want to make a change and make the change exactly there with a high level of fidelity to what you’re trying to do. And in the past, we could insert new sequences, we could make changes, but it wasn’t always easy to do it exactly where you wanted. And CRISPR is the easiest, the most cost-effective and the most precise tool that we have to date for knowing exactly where you want to make a change and stating exactly what that change will be.
Dr. Kaylee Byers 12:37
Sort of like taking your clothes to a tailor and having them snipped and sewn as you’d like.
Dr. Samantha Yammine 12:43
Yeah. Whereas in the past, you might have given your tailor a blazer and said, I want to add a button, but you couldn’t specify where the button would go. And now you can very easily say no, no, the button needs to go here.
Dr. Kaylee Byers 12:55
I really love the idea of taking a blazer to a tailor, and it coming back with just like 50 buttons all along the back side of it.
Dr. Samantha Yammine 13:01
It could be fierce.
Dr. Kaylee Byers 13:02
Sounds like style.
Dr. Samantha Yammine 13:03
Dr. Kaylee Byers 13:06
So, this is a pretty powerful technology that we have. But what are some of the ethical considerations you see with the ability to do something like this to de-extinct a species of rat?
Dr. Samantha Yammine 13:17
Yeah, when it comes to using CRISPR to make changes to bring back a species? I mean, we really got to see what the ecologist would say about that, because bringing a whole new species back… it’s interesting because we were the cause of them being extinct. Yeah. So you kind of want to make up for that. But at the same time, that will have an impact on the local ecosystem, and that could be really tricky. And you also would want to make sure you get it right and that you don’t have any mistakes that you’re adding in that could change the rat and make it a new kind of type of rat. I think we could do it cautiously enough to avoid that. But I know that that would be a fear people might have.
Dr. Kaylee Byers 13:58
Yeah, and I think there’s something like 4% of that Christmas Island rat’s genome, it hasn’t been able to be mapped to the Norway rat’s genome. So, there’s this quite considerable chunk of DNA that we don’t have, which exactly points to this right? You might be creating something that really isn’t reflective of the species that was there in the first place.
Dr. Samantha Yammine 14:18
Yeah, and I do think we could we could know that risk with some degree of certainty. But I would still just say my biggest concern is less on the gene-editing side and more on the ecological impact that would have.
Dr. Kaylee Byers 14:32
Yeah, and I mean, I would really be remiss if I didn’t bring this up, Sam, you know, my favourite movie is Jurassic Park, and I feel like we’ve…
Dr. Samantha Yammine 14:39
I’ve been waiting to mention it.
Dr. Kaylee Byers 14:45
Some indication of how these things can sometimes go. How do these technologies and ethical implications go beyond rats? Are we using these sort of technologies with people?
Dr. Samantha Yammine 14:58
I think when, when folks hear gene editing, it sounds very scary, and we can definitely see how this could be a way to introduce further inequities. On the one hand, as a biologist, I’m really excited about the prospect of gene editing. It helps us do research a lot more easily in the lab. So even just when we’re looking at cells in a dish, it enables so much more advanced research. When it comes to people, it could allow us to make huge quality of life improvements for people living with a genetic disorder, especially single mutation conditions, which exist, if we could find a way to edit it in their cells, which isn’t easy. But if we could do it, you know, we could essentially correct the disease, and that would be great. But if it’s costly and not everyone can access it, that’s where I really start to get concerned. And then I know many people have the fear of, well, how far will we go. And that’s a whole other discussion.
Dr. Kaylee Byers 16:00
There are a lot of considerations to make when it comes to gene editing. Although, as a resident Rat Detective, I’m rooting for the little guys on this one.
You’re listening to Nice Genes! A podcast is all about the fascinating world of genomics and the evolving science behind it, brought to you by Genome British Columbia. I’m Dr. Kaylee Byers, your host, and I have a quick favour to ask you. If you’re liking the show, hit follow on Apple podcast or wherever you get your shows, to go further down the double helix-shaped rabbit hole. And to help the show really hop off, leave a review and tell a friend about us. I don’t know, my rabbit puns need some work.
So, we’ve covered the possibilities of our genes and our ability to edit them, something that was only in science fiction a few years ago. So much has happened lately in the field of genomics, it’s easy to put all our focus there. But to round out our conversation, I think it’s important that we take a few steps back to the not-so-distant past, beginning with the discovery of the structure of DNA and to two of the scientists who made an incredible discovery but whose contributions went unrecognized for too long.
So, Sam, we have so many tools and tech to study DNA now. But in those early, early years of genetics, not so much. And one of the biggest advancements in our understanding of DNA was from one picture called ‘Photograph 51’, taken in 1952. The photo was the work of Dr. Rosalind Franklin and a graduate student named Ray Gosling, working under her at King’s College in London. They used a method called X-ray diffraction on DNA fibres. Franklin was a pro with X-ray techniques. The two spent a lot of time getting it just right, set everything up, ran the X-ray for hours, then they took the first picture of DNA.
And our producer Sean is going to show us a picture of this DNA, I think.
Dr. Kaylee Byers 17:59
Oh, I love a reveal. Wow. Look at it!
Dr. Samantha Yammine 18:02
“Isn’t she lovely?”
Dr. Kaylee Byers 18:05
She kind of looks like a watch? You know, has sort of has like a watch like look?
Dr. Samantha Yammine 18:10
Or a baseball?
Dr. Kaylee Byers 18:12
Wow, I don’t know sports.
Dr. Samantha Yammine 18:13
Like the stitching a baseball?
Dr. Kaylee Byers 18:14
Oh, that’s very good. No, that’s right. Yeah. When you look at it, yeah, what do you see? I kind of see like an X.
Dr. Samantha Yammine 18:22
Dr. Kaylee Byers 18:22
Through the middle
Dr. Samantha Yammine 18:23
Definite X through the middle, it could almost look like the stitching on a baseball if it were if they come a little bit closer together. And then I’m just trying to imagine how you go from that to a helix?
Dr. Kaylee Byers 18:36
Dr. Samantha Yammine 18:36
I can sort of see it, I can see the the winding but..
Dr. Kaylee Byers 18:40
Like how we got from that to the twisted helix?
Dr. Samantha Yammine 18:44
I guess from Photograph 51; you can sort of see that in the center. It’s darker, and then it gets lighter as you go back. So, I guess that was showing you some kind of movement; you can sort of get a sense from that x, that there’s this, there’s this winding; there’s some curvature. And indeed, we then understood that you have these two backbones made of alternating sugar and phosphate groups, and they attach and those that’s like the sides of the ladder that you might hold on to as you’re climbing. And then if you picture a ladder, and now picture it being twisted, the steps of the ladder are these base pairs coming together, A and T and C and G; those two bases they pair together, and that’s what zips the DNA into one piece. And in fact, we know you can unzip it to separate that ladder in half. But that beautiful twist is the structure of the DNA molecule encoding life.
Dr. Kaylee Byers 19:42
Uncovering the structure of DNA was like finding the ancient map that would eventually lead to our holy grail: the human genome. Dr. Rosalind Franklin’s expertise was the keystone in developing early models of our DNA structure, and she’s also just a fascinating figure in history. She was incredibly studious at a young age and graduated from Cambridge. When World War Two ignited, she gave up a fellowship to study the chemistry of coal and carbon for the war effort. She was also a London air raid warden. But years later, there was some not so funny business that followed taking Photograph 51. Exactly how it happened is still up for debate. But somehow, that photo fell into the hands of two young scientists at King’s College, Dr. James Watson and Dr. Francis Crick. When you were learning about this, were you taught about Rosalind Franklin? Was there a general recognition about her contributions to the work then?
Dr. Samantha Yammine 20:37
That’s a good question. I’m trying to think back. But I do remember in my undergraduate studies, seeing that photo, and I know that when I became a TA [teaching assistant] in genetics, I talked about her every time.
Dr. Kaylee Byers 20:52
Yeah, I was trying to think too about it when I learned about it. And Watson and Crick were talked about a lot, but we didn’t hear that much about Rosalind Franklin.
Dr. Samantha Yammine 21:02
And it’s interesting because science is all cumulative, it progresses over time. And everything is always because of prior discoveries. And I think it’s a bit of a challenge in general, this is not to excuse Watson and Crick for not giving her credit, but it does, it should make us reflect on how we tend to reward science these days, you know, with one person winning a big prize when really that was a huge team effort. And I think that’s kind of an important takeaway for us all is to always think, well, how did they make the discovery? Whose work were they relying on and to give credit to the full chain?
Dr. Kaylee Byers 21:39
That’s a wonderful point. And you know, actually, when I was doing some reading about this in advance, I found an article that said that Rosalind Franklin, after reading Watson and Crick’s paper said in response, “we all stand on each other’s shoulders”. And that really highlights that right, the research that we do is related to the work of others, and how we build it. So, going back to this photo, and as someone who has used genetics in their research, right, in neuroscience, what’s the discovery of that DNA structure meant for you as a scientist?
Dr. Samantha Yammine 22:14
Wow, I mean, really, it was, it was that inspiration, knowing what I mentioned earlier, just knowing that every cell has the same essential set of instructions, and yet comes out so different. That was truly the question I was trying to understand in my research is how does that happen? And what does it look like? And how do cells slowly become different? And what, how does their gene expression change? How does the pattern of genes that they’re deciding to wear that day, to express that day slowly allow you to go from a pretty boring circular, early stem cell to the beautiful branched cells of the brain? How do you how do you change so much overtime? How does using the same instructions as any other cell in the body, how do you become this magnificent neuron that underlies all of our thinking and everything we are? So going from that set of instructions in DNA, and knowing that they’re the same in every cell and that that still leads to differentiation of cell types, that was the real spark of curiosity that drove me to the research I did.
Dr. Kaylee Byers 23:25
The fact that Dr. Rosalind Franklin didn’t receive the recognition she deserved for her discovery in her time is unfortunate. That one photo, Photograph 51, was the launching point for the future of genomics, including the Human Genome Project, scientists could finally hold in their hands the key to unlocking and understanding our genome.
To round us off, I want to hear from Science Sam about one of the most interesting organs in the body, your brain. And this is where the human genome gets even more complex. The brain, to me, is kind of a big black box, can you walk me through some of the complexity there in trying to understand the brain?
Dr. Samantha Yammine 24:14
I love the brain for its complexity. It’s this beautiful spaghetti-looking structure of 171 billion cells. And in each of those cells, we have the 3 billion base pairs of DNA in every single chromosome and all of those cells, and they become different through the different subset of DNA that is used in each cell. And then the fascinating part about cells in the brain is about half of the cells in the brain are neurons. These are what underlie our ability to think and do things, right? They’re the cells that send electrochemical messages to get us to do anything or think anything, and they look like a tree, and at the top of the tree, the arbor is where the nucleus is, is where the DNA is. And yet those instructions are encoding things that will happen all the way down the trunk all the way down the axon of the neuron to the end ‘feet’. That’s where the neuron passes on its message. So, the cool thing in the brain is that you have genetic messages being sent all across these really long cell types, then have specialized things happening at different parts of the same cell. It’s, it’s absurd, but it’s so fascinating. Even when it comes to being able to smell, there’s a big chunk of our genome that’s dedicated to olfactory receptors that will help us in our ability to distinguish different smells. Have you ever thought about that? Think about all the different things you can smell; you need different receptors to help you to recognize those different scents. And where that comes… you couldn’t pack in into the genome, all of that information, except if not through what we call splicing. So, you have one gene, and you could chop it up in different ways. And that will encode for a completely different protein that lets you sense something completely different. So, it’s not even just the genes that we have; it’s the way that we chop them up and put them together into a protein that lets us have the diversity that we see and functions in cells in the brain and all over the body.
Dr. Kaylee Byers 26:15
This is so incredible. And what I love about that, too, is it makes me think about how you know, sometimes when you smell a certain thing, it reminds you of a memory? Like there’s one very specific smell that reminds me of a neighbourhood… I used to call her grandma, and I don’t remember her last name. And I would go over to her house, and she would give me rosettes, these little rosette chocolates. And the cupboard had a very particular smell. And every time I smell that smell, I think of her from like when I was five years old, it’s so wild, the brain is wild.
Dr. Samantha Yammine 26:46
Yeah. And it holds on tight to those sensory connections with memories, especially smell; they have a really tight relationship.
Dr. Kaylee Byers 26:53
Is there a particular story about neurology and genomics that’s caught your interest lately?
Dr. Samantha Yammine 26:59
I’m gonna go to the neuroscience side of things and go to the really fundamental questions we can ask about the brain. We are in this era of single-cell “omics”, single-cell genomics, being able to study cells in the brain and all over the body, at the individual cell level, instead of sampling them by the handful like we have in the past. And I got to do some of that for my research to really understand, okay, I call these all one type of cell, but if we look really closely, the way that they express their genes is slightly different. And now we’re starting to understand subtypes of cells. And so, for me, what’s most exciting is being able to get that single-cell resolution look of how new cells in the brain are born.
Dr. Kaylee Byers 27:52
I think maybe you mentioned earlier a bit about stem cells. Can you tell us about going from stem cell to differentiated cell?
Dr. Samantha Yammine 27:58
Well, in the past, we thought that cells in the brain didn’t really regenerate; what you were born with is all you have. A few decades ago it was discovered that there are, in fact, stem cells that remain there tissue-resident stem cells that remain in the brain, and they can continue to regenerate new brain cells throughout the lifespan of an adult. And that’s really fascinating to look at the underlying differences in the gene expression of the stem cells. What’s really cool there, is they’re constantly replicating their genetic information. And even the way that they do that, you could get some errors. Because if you’re constantly making copies and making copies, and if that stem cell is getting the copied version instead of the original version of the instructions, you can encode errors over time. And so, even understanding how stem cells can make so many copies of themselves without errors is a fascinating genetic question.
Dr. Kaylee Byers 28:59
What do you think that area of research around stem cells in the brain… where could we go with this? What new discoveries might we have?
Dr. Samantha Yammine 29:06
There’s so many ways that advanced genomic technologies and understanding of stem cells have come together beautifully. For example, if you are ever going to do any type of gene editing therapy, let’s say you know that there are some cells in the brain or, let’s choose a part of the body that’s easier to access, right? Like certain muscle cells, for example, if you just edited the genome of the particular cells, let’s say in your arm, almost every tissue has a resident stem cell. And it depends on how often that tissue will regenerate. If you just edited and corrected the “daughter cells” that are going to get replaced anyways from stem cells in two weeks, then your therapy wouldn’t last more than two weeks. But understanding that new cells can be born from stem cells if you target the stem cell for the gene therapy. Now you can have a long-lasting gene therapy because the originator of all the stem cells of that tissue is going to have the correction, and it can now pass it on. So, we wouldn’t be able to be at this stage of gene editing without understanding stem cells that exist all throughout the body because they’re the ideal targets for gene editing. So, if you’re trying to correct some type of leukemia, a cancer in the blood lineage, you would want to target the original blood stem cell so that it can pass on those genetic changes. And the therapy can last throughout those cycles of regeneration.
Dr. Kaylee Byers 30:42
There’s obviously lots going on in the field of genomics. And this is just one aspect of it, right? It’s one field. Where do you see the possibilities of genomics going? What are you excited about?
Dr. Samantha Yammine 30:54
I’m excited for how it’s letting us get a better understanding for our biology and the very simple part of what encodes our biology. I’m just excited for that extra information. I’m really excited about the idea of personalized and precision medicine. And one area that I’m most passionate about, there’s a movement to increase representation in the field of genomics and making sure that our reference genomes are representative of the diversity in the population. And when that type of study is done right in collaboration with communities who have been underrepresented in the field of genomics, that’s going to lead us to such a better understanding of medicine that will be applicable to everyone. And it’s so important.
Dr. Kaylee Byers 31:42
Science Sam, Dr. Samantha Yammine, thank you so much for joining us today.
Dr. Samantha Yammine 31:48
Thank you so much for having me and letting me talk about some of my favourite things in the world, which is this awesome genomic revolution that we’re in.
Dr. Kaylee Byers 32:17
That’s it for episode one of Nice Genes! My guest today has been science superstar Dr. Samantha Yammine, or Science Sam. If you don’t follow Sam already, I’m gonna recommend heading over to any and all of the social medias where you can find her on Instagram, Twitter and TikTok with @ScienceSam, or @HeyScienceSam. If you liked what you heard, or have a comment about one of the stories, you can slide into our DMS or reach out to the show @GenomeBC. We’d love to hear from you. Join us on our next episode, where we crack open an enigma in genomic science. The link between our genome and mental health. Where the science of genomics and psychology intersect.
Dr. Jehannine Austine 33:09
I’m just going to be really blunt. I think that I think that the “Dark Genome”, and I can’t say it without sounding really despondent, I’m afraid, sounds to me like a bit of… Yeah, it’s a rebranding. It’s a marketing gimmick around trying to make something sound really sinister. And it’s just stuff that we used to call junk DNA. We shouldn’t call it junk because we know absolutely, categorically, that is not what it is.
Dr. Kaylee Byers 33:40
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DID YOU LIKE THIS EPISODE? THEN YOU SHOULD LISTEN TO…
THE RIGHT MEDS: CAN GENOMICS HELP YOU FIND THE PERFECT ANTIDEPRESSANT FOR YOUR BODY?
GUEST: DR. JEHANNINE AUSTIN
The world of pharmacology helps a lot of people manage mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia. But, frankly, it can often be a bumpy road to discover the right medication for your body. Dr. Kaylee Byers speaks with award-winning Genetic Counselor Dr. Jehannine Austin on how pharmaco-genomics is taking the guesswork out of prescriptions by observing your unique DNA blueprint. Spitting in tubes, traversing the ‘Dark Genome’ and navigating mountains of optimistic (and not so optimistic) data may just hold the key to unlocking the enigmas of genomic science and psychiatry. With special appearances from Behavioral Neuroendocrinologist Dr. Travis Hodges and pharmaco-genomic testing partner Lisa Ridgeway, we discuss the lived experiences and behavioral indicators of those living with complex mental health ailments.