‘Genetic superheroes’ shielded from diseases

Resilence Project
A graphic illustrates how some rare individuals seem to be shielded from childhood diseases for which they carry the genes. (Credit: The Resilience Project)

Hundreds of diseases have been linked to genetic factors, but now scientists say they’ve found some people who stay healthy even though they have disease-causing genes.

So what’s their secret?

If researchers could answer that question, they might be able to come up with new treatments and even cures for gene-linked maladies such as cystic fibrosis, Huntington’s disease or sickle-cell anemia.

The good news is that researchers have identified 13 adults who are resilient to severe childhood diseases that are in their genes. In a study published by Nature Biotechnology, researchers report that the 13 were found by analyzing genetic data from nearly 600,000 individuals.

The bad news is that it’s impossible to get back in touch with those lucky 13. When they gave their DNA samples to be analyzed, they didn’t give their consent to be recontacted. As a result, they’ll have to remain anonymous.

“It’s almost as if you got to take the wrapping off the box, and you couldn’t open the box up,” said study co-author Stephen Friend, president of Seattle-based Sage Bionetworks.

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