Stylianos Antonarakis, a famous Greek geneticist, revealed some of the secrets of the genome in his speech at the Hellenic American Medical Society’s annual event
ATHENS, February 1, 2010 – The internationally renowned Professor of Medical Genetics and Chairman of the Department of Genetic Medicine and Development at the University of Geneva Medical School, and Chairman of the Division of Medical Genetics at the University Hospitals of the same city, Stylianos Antonarakis, spoke about “The Alphabet of Life” revealing some of the secrets of the genome, but also important aspects of genetic science. Professor Antonarakis was the guest speaker of the Hellenic American Medical Society and its President, Professor Dimitris Linos, which held its annual Dinner for the New Year on Friday, January 29 at Hilton Hotel in Athens.
Καθηγητής Στυλιανός ΑντωναράκηςProfessor Antonarakis’ research, especially on the DNA and genetic mutations that cause hereditary diseases, such as hemophilia, Mediterranean anemia and the Down Syndrome, is universally recognized. His laboratory is among Europe’s leaders in genetic research, renowned for its scientific, academic and clinical contributions in genetics, and particularly for its work on chromosome 21 responsible for the Down syndrome.
As stated by Professor Linos, “The Hellenic American Medical Society was founded in 1968 aiming its members, who are physicians trained or worked in the U.S., to continue practicing medicine in Greece, as trained and practiced in America. It is a great honor and pleasure to host today an important and charismatic Greek scientist whose contribution to the development of genetic science is internationally acclaimed and honors the Greek scientific community.”
During his speech, Professor Antonarakis extensively referred to the human genome that is contained in the chromosomes, in the nucleus of all our cells. It is a “book of information” which, although written in just 4 letters, it contains all the information necessary for human existence. The information is continuously “copied” from cell to cell and this “wonderful and accurate process cell to cell, from generation to generation makes us all look like each other and therefore comprise the human species. However, this genome reproduction is not a perfect process and mistakes are made quite often, creating multiple variations. These variations of the genome accumulate over time and over the generations and are responsible for our differences from each other, “the gift we have as species”, as the Professor characteristically explained. However, this uniqueness is the reason for our predisposition to develop genetic diseases. Moreover, the continuously changing environment plays a very significant role in the evolution of our genome.
For the scientists, the interest is found among these differences that make each one of us unique and do not exceed 1% -2% of the sequence of the DNA. The big challenge is to associate these variations in our genome and different health problems. Thus, researchers use them in studies called genome-wide association studies that relate to the whole genome and essentially aim to genetic estimates, the probability that develop certain diseases. Professor Antonarakis said that our knowledge about the correlation of genes and diseases at the individual level is still limited and will take a lot of time and research by the next generations until all our questions are answered.
Genetics, he added, is a science where you have to make two steps forward and one step back, always with prudence and caution in order to avoid mistakes. In the medicine of the future, the geneticist will be a health consultant, as today’s economic advisors, who will advise us how to protect the capital of our health, while the drugs will be customized not only for a disease, but for the disease of the specific patient as well. In the future, genetics will be able to offer many answers and change medical practice. However we are still far from this.
The Hellenic American Medical Society Annual Dinner was attended by academics, professors and physicians of various specialties. Among other attendees were the Academics Thanassis Valtinos, George Kontopoulos, Evangelos Moutsopoulos, the Vice Dean of the University of Athens Georgios Kreatsas and Professors Aristidis Antsaklis, Georgios Vaiopoulos, Michalis Koutsilieris, Phaedon Kaklamanis, Katherine Dakou – Voutetakis, Fotios Beris, Efstratios Patsouris, Panagiotis Ballas, Georgios Papaioannou and Nikos Stefanis.
The organization was sponsored by YGEIA Hospital and the companies Farmaserv-Lilly, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson.