The Union-Tribune today led its front page and science page with fascinating stories on new research frontiers being pursued by San Diego scientists.

On the front is a Jonathan Sidener piece that explains how wireless technology might revolutionize healthcare, and breaks the news that San Diego will become home to the first wireless healthcare research institute.

Sidener opens his story with the possibilities of wireless healthcare:

Imagine a pill with a tiny, inexpensive radio inside that uses the electrolyte in stomach acid as a power source when swallowed. The radio sends a message to a home network or other wireless device, which ultimately alerts a doctor when and how often a patient is taking a critical medicine.

Now picture a patch the size of a Band-Aid that monitors seven heart functions and can wirelessly alert a doctor when a patient needs to come in for treatment to avoid a heart attack.

Sidener’s story also reports that Qualcomm, Scripps Health and the Gary and Mary West Foundation plan to launch the West Wireless Medicine Institute today.

And on the science page, Scott LaFee writes about the human epigenome, the next level of genetic research. When scientists decoded the human genome, they essentially identified the 25,000 genes that make us human. The epigenome is all the compounds and chemicals that regulate how our genes function.

Stories I’ve done recently on genetic research into diet and longevity and how genes have a role in social behavior examples of researchers doing what is essentially epigenomic research.

From LaFee’s story:

Alone, the genome cannot construct a person. The “book of life” requires a vocabulary of attendant molecules, compounds and chemicals — a biochemical language, so to speak — to help genes write the individual story of you.

Altogether, this phenomenon is called epigenetics. Its study represents one of the cutting edges of bioscience, offering the possibility of not just curing diseases like cancer and diabetes, but preventing them altogether.

“The human epigenome is the next frontier of genomic research,” said Bing Ren, an associate professor of cellular and molecular medicine at the University of California San Diego, which recently received a five-year, $16.6 million grant from the federal National Institutes of Health (NIH) to establish The San Diego Epigenome Center at the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research on campus.


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