Dr. Burke's Pearls from the IFM 2015 Conference

Kristine Burke
April 4, 2016

The Institute for Functional Medicine hosts annual conferences, and this year the conference was in Austin, TX, and the topic was genomics. Each attendee came away from the conference with new knowledge to present to patients. The transcript for Dr. Burke's video blog is below.

I'm here at the Institute for Functional Medicine's annual international conference. This year our topic is genomics and understanding how our genes interrelate with our environment and how we develop disease or develop and maintain health and wellness.

One of the things that I thought was really interesting was learning how to convey that message to patients. There's a lot of interest in genetic testing, we've got direct-to-consumer companies like 23andMe that are doing testing for people, but nobody really knows how to interpret that data. Some of it is very clear and we know exactly what it means and what to do with it, but a lot of the information we don't really know how to take that to the next level and what to do with that clinically.

One of the pearls that I got from the conference is how to express that idea to patients: our genetics are like our blueprint, and in the same way that the blueprint tells you how a building is going to be constructed, our DNA tells us how we're going to be constructed. But the blueprint doesn't tell you how that building is going to be utilized, what its function's going to be, who's going to be coming and going, and what conversations and interactions and parties they're going to be having there. So we have this information on our blueprint and then our epigenetics are basically the function: how that building is going to be used.

Another way of looking at it, another great pearl that I got from this, is our genetics are like the piece of paper that's going to be used for origami. That paper could be folded into something that looks like a crane, and that's going to be impacted by the person who's acting on it, the environment that that paper is going through. In someone else, it may be folded into a paper airplane. And those two things come out completely differently, even though they may have similar genetic traits or the same genetic variations.

So we still have a lot to learn about that translation between our blueprint and our function, our piece of paper and what our origami will look like.

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