Partners HealthCare Biobank – Advancing Personalized Medicine

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital November 19, 2015

20140404; Friday, April 4, 2014, Boston, MA, USA; Partners HealthCare Biobank leaders Susan A. Slaugenhaupt, MD, and Elizabeth Wood Karlson, MD, talk about the promise of the Biobank project in Dr. Slaugenhaupt's lab space inside the Massachusetts General Hospital Simches Research Building Friday morning April 4, 2014. background: "The Partners HealthCare Biobank is a large research program designed to help researchers understand how people’s health is affected by their genes, lifestyle, and environment. The Biobank collects and maintain samples and information from individuals who receive their care at Brigham and Women's Hospital, Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, and Massachusetts General Hospital. These materials will be used in research to better understand many different diseases." ~ adapted from Partners website Partners HealthCare annual report project with Hill Holliday ( 2014 © lightchaser photography )

Partners HealthCare Biobank leaders Dr. Elizabeth W. Karlson (left) and Dr. Susan A. Slaugenhaupt.

The Partners HealthCare Biobank is a program designed to help researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Massachusetts General Hospital, and other Partners HealthCare institutions understand how people’s health is affected by their genes, lifestyle, and environment.

By understanding a patient’s genetic makeup, physicians can screen more aggressively for diseases that their patients are predisposed to and develop plans to reduce the chances of developing specific diseases. Ultimately, the goal is to define and classify subgroups of patients based on how they respond to certain treatments, which will help physicians choose the best medications for individuals. This is known as personalized medicine.

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Improve Glucose Tolerance by Eating and Working Earlier in the Day

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital September 24, 2015

Eating late at night and working overnight both increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Contributor: Frank A. J. L. Scheer, PhD, is a neuroscientist and Director of the Medical Chronobiology Program at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH).

Research shows that eating later in the day lowers the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar levels, also known as low glucose tolerance. The study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in March 2015, also found that night shift workers who sleep during the day and work overnight had lower glucose tolerance than those who are awake during the day and sleep at night. This, in turn, can impact health issues such as weight gain, insulin resistance, and the risk for developing Type 2 diabetes.

The study compared circadian rhythms, sleep/wake cycles, and mealtimes to blood glucose levels in 14 healthy participants. All subjects participated in two protocols. In one protocol, the individuals were awake during the day, had their first meal at 8 a.m., their last meal at 8 p.m., and slept at night. In the second, they slept during the day, had their first meal at 8 p.m., stayed up all night, and had their last meal at 8 a.m.

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Impact of Healthy Habits on Young Women’s Hearts

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital February 10, 2015

Research shows that certain healthy habits have a significant impact on heart disease risk.

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is good for your heart. It’s not a novel concept, but how much of a difference does it really make?

A team of researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Indiana University, and Harvard Medical School recently set out to examine how certain lifestyle factors impact the risk of heart disease in younger women (ages 27 to 44 years). Examining this particular segment of the population is significant, as the mortality rate for coronary heart disease (CHD) has plateaued among young American women in recent decades, while the rate for the overall population has declined.

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Ebola Preparedness at Brigham and Women’s Hospital

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital October 31, 2014

We’re conducting extensive training to prepare for the unlikely arrival of a patient with Ebola at one of our sites.

Ebola continues to be a public health concern. As of this posting, no Ebola cases have been reported in Massachusetts; however, to ensure the safety of our patients and our staff, clinical leaders at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) and Brigham and Women’s Faulkner Hospital (BWFH) are conducting extensive training and preparation for the unlikely arrival of a patient with Ebola at one of our sites.

Eric Goralnick, MD, Medical Director of Emergency Preparedness, and Deborah Yokoe, MD, Hospital Epidemiologist and Medical Director of Infection Control, describe our Ebola preparedness plans.

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A Hearty Dose of Cardiovascular Advice and Research

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital February 12, 2013

Heart disease continues to be the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States, and it is also one of the leading causes of disability. As part of American Heart Month, we offer insight from our clinicians and researchers about how to reduce your heart disease risks and what new things we’re learning about cardiovascular disease and treatment.


Heart Disease: Eliminate Excuses to Reduce Your Risks

Dr. Eldrin F. Lewis, MD, MPH, tells his patients that they’ll dramatically reduce their risk of developing heart disease if they follow a few simple guidelines for reducing their blood pressure (hypertension). Genetics can indeed play a role in developing high blood pressure, but obesity, inactivity, tobacco and alcohol use, stress, and salt intake are all hypertension risk factors that you can  control.


Weighing the Benefits and Risks of Cholesterol Drugs

If you’ve been taking a statin medication to lower your cholesterol, you might be wondering what you should do in light of new warnings about the link between statin use and diabetes. Research conducted at Brigham and Women’s Hospital may help you and your doctor weigh the benefits and risks.

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Got Milk? – Helping Mongolian Children Live Healthier Lives

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital December 12, 2012

Janet Rich-Edwards’ research has taken her to Mongolia, where she studied vitamin D levels among children. Pictured is Janet holding a model of a yurt, a portable tent-like dwelling in which many Mongolians reside.

Janet Rich-Edwards, ScD, MPH, Director of Developmental Epidemiology in the Connors Center for Women’s Health and Gender Biology is a lucky woman.  While many researchers never leave the laboratory or clinic, her work has taken her to one of the most scenic and remote areas of the world. Since 2004, Rich-Edwards has traveled to Mongolia, nicknamed “Land of Eternal Blue Sky”, to conduct research that has helped shape the country’s public health policies and improve the lives of its three million residents.

Her path to conduct research in Mongolia was an unexpected one.  Rich-Edwards wanted to study whether cow’s milk consumed by children affected their hormone levels and puberty. However, because dairy products are so widely consumed in the US, it wasn’t possible to find a comparison group of children who consume low amounts of dairy.

Instead, a colleague recommended that Rich-Edwards conduct her research in Mongolia, where there is a large population of children who tolerate milk but lack access to it. In the course of their research in Mongolian children, Rich-Edwards and her colleagues discovered that Mongolia has a high prevalence of rickets, a bone disorder caused by lack of vitamin D. They knew that this vitamin D deficiency was due to the extreme latitude where Mongolians live combined with an absence of vitamin D in their diets. Unlike developed countries like the US, foods such as milk and breakfast cereal have been not been fortified with vitamin D in Mongolia.

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Serious News for Couch Potatoes

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital August 7, 2012

Physical inactivity leads to a shorter life expectancy, causing as many premature deaths as tobacco smoking or obesity.

New Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) studies are bringing to light the serious health impact of a sedentary lifestyle. Physical inactivity leads to a shorter life expectancy and increased risks of many chronic diseases. In fact, it causes as many premature deaths worldwide as tobacco smoking or obesity.

A recent study led by BWH epidemiologist Dr. I-Min Lee estimates that physical inactivity causes between six and ten percent of coronary artery disease, type 2 diabetes, colon cancer, and breast cancer cases worldwide.  Inactivity also is responsible for some 5.3 million deaths worldwide each year – comparable to the 5 million deaths worldwide per year that are attributed to tobacco smoking or the 3 million deaths worldwide per year attributed to obesity.  Physical inactivity was defined in the study as not getting the recommended amount of physical activity, which is 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity physical activity (e.g., 30 minute brisk walk, 5 times a week).

“Physical inactivity has a major health effect globally,” said Dr. Lee, the lead author of the study. “While it is unrealistic to suppose that we can eliminate inactivity worldwide, a decrease in the number of people worldwide who are inactive by just 25 percent could save as many as 1.3 million lives worldwide each year.”

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