nos-trum. pronunciation: \nos'-trum\. noun. Etymology: Latin, neuter of noster our, ours.
1. a medicine of secret composition recommended by its preparer but usually without scientific proof of its effectiveness.
2. a usually questionable remedy or scheme.
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Monday, October 18, 2010

The Miracles Of Genomic Medicine...Someday: The Example Of Predicting Human Height

Not a day goes by that some research doesn't identify a new gene that's associated with some disease.  But we are light years away from making any use of it.
I was reading David H. Freedman's book Wrong:  Why experts* keep failing us...and how to know when not to trust them.  Very readable, and it give great examples of the themes I keep harping on in Nostrums.

I came across a reference to an article in the European Journal of Human Genetics (Feb 2009) called "Predicting human height by Victorian and genomic methods."

Everybody wants their kids to grow up tall.  [Remember that Randy Newman song "Short People (got no reason to live)"?]

So parents would reeaally like to know what genes would give you tall children.

The researchers looked at the 54 genes they found to be common among tall people and developed a formula to predict a person's height.

They then applied the formula to 5,748 people. 

Results:  Their genomic prediction was only one-tenth as accurate as the tried-and-true method that has been used for over a hundred years:  take the average of the parents' height and correct for gender.

For Onion Peelers,
In a population-based study of 5748 people, we find that a 54-loci genomic profile explained 4–6% of the sex- and age-adjusted height variance, and had limited ability to discriminate tall/short people, as characterized by the area under the receiver-operating characteristic curve (AUC). In a family-based study of 550 people, with both parents having height measurements, we find that the Galtonian mid-parental prediction method explained 40% of the sex- and age-adjusted height variance, and showed high discriminative accuracy

I guess we can throw out all those DNA-analyzing machines that cost millions and get a tape measure instead.
Doc D

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