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Phospholipid-Bound Omega-3 May Lower Alzheimer’s Risk

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More and more, scientists are confirming and validating recommendations to consume healthy dietary fats, and typically in far greater amounts than recommended by U.S. dietary guidelines. Healthy fats are, in my view, so important for health, I’ve dedicated my last two books to this topic.

Fat for Fuel” details how to implement a cyclical ketogenic diet high in healthy fats, low in net carbs and moderate in protein. “Superfuel: Ketogenic Keys to Unlock the Secrets of Good Fats, Bad Fats, and Great Health,” slated for release November 13, delves even further into the specifics of dietary fats and how to discriminate between healthy and harmful ones.

This is really crucial information, as unhealthy fats can do more harm than excess sugar. Unfortunately, if you pay attention to government dietary guidelines (or many conventional doctors), you’ll be grossly misinformed about which types of fat to eat, and how much.

For example, in the past 100 years, our omega-6 intake has nearly tripled largely due to misleading or outright incorrect marketing and government health campaigns while our intake of omega-3 has decreased tenfold, causing a severe imbalance in our omega-3 to omega-6 ratio.

Hence, this was the incentive for writing “Superfuel” to set the record straight. A majority of the research for this book was compiled by James DiNicolantonio, Pharm.D., author of “The Salt Fix.”1 In a nutshell, “Superfuel” guides you back to a diet reminiscent of that during Paleolithic times, with particular focus on animal-based omega-3 fats, specifically those bound to phospholipids.

At that time, much of the omega-3 came from animal brains. Today, brains is unlikely to make the menu, but phospholipid-bound omega-3 can still be had from krill oil and fish roe.

To learn how fats are truly an extraordinary fuel for your body and brain, and why it’s so vitally important to eat the right ones, be sure to order a copy of “Superfuel” today. All preorders will also receive three free gifts.


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DHA Is Crucial for Cellular Health

The fats recommended by U.S. health authorities — primarily vegetable oils — are very high in processed (and hence damaged) omega-6 fats. One of the most significant dangers of vegetable oils is that the damaged fats are integrated into your cell membranes, including mitochondrial membranes, and once these membranes become dysfunctional it sets the stage for all sorts of complications and ill health.

For example, as DiNicolantonio explains in our interview, the inner membrane of your mitochondria contains a component called cardiolipin, which needs to be saturated in the omega-3 fat docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) in order to function properly.

Cardiolipin can be likened to a cellular alarm system that triggers programmed cell death (apoptosis) by signaling caspase-3 when something goes wrong with the cell. However, if the cardiolipin is not saturated with DHA, it cannot signal caspase-3, and hence apoptosis does not occur. As a result, dysfunctional cells continue to grow and may turn into a tumor. DHA is particularly crucial for brain health. In your brain, DHA:

  • Stimulates Nrf2, a transcription factor that regulates cellular oxidation and reduction, and aids in detoxification
  • Increases heme oxygenase 1, a protein produced in response to stress, including oxidative stress
  • Upregulates antioxidant enzymes

All of this is important for optimal brain health and function. DHA and EPA are also actual structural elements that make up all of your cells, including those in your brain, so their importance really cannot be overstated.

However, the source of your DHA also matters. Industrially processed omega-3 fish oils can actually cause problems similar to those caused by excessive amounts of omega-6. This is a topic we examine at greater depth in “Superfuel.” A summary of some of the key issues can also be found in my previous article, “Are Many Fish Oils Synthetic?

About half of all fish oils also have problems with oxidation. So, when buying a fish oil supplement, you really need to look for a product that tests the hydro peroxide levels. The lower the level the better, but I recommend staying below 5 percent.

The Importance of Phospholipids

For years, I’ve recommended krill oil over fish oil if you don’t regularly eat cleaner, small fatty fish such as anchovies and sardines. Krill has a number of benefits over fish oil, but one in particular has been highlighted in recent research, namely that of phospholipids.

While fatty acids (including DHA and EPA) are water soluble, they cannot be transported in their free form in your blood. They must be “packaged” into lipoprotein vehicles such as phospholipids.

In krill oil, the omega-3s DHA and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) are naturally bound to phospholipids, which makes them more readily absorbed by your body compared to fish oil, where the omega-3s are bound to triglycerides.

Phospholipids are also one of the principal compounds in high-density lipoproteins (HDL), which you want more of, and by allowing your cells to maintain structural integrity, phospholipids help your cells function optimally. Importantly, your brain cannot absorb DHA unless it’s bound to phosphatidylcholine, and while krill oil contains phosphatidylcholine naturally, fish oil does not.

When you consume fish oil, your liver has to attach it to phosphatidyl choline in order for it to be utilized by your body, and this is yet another reason for its superior bioavailability. As the name implies, phosphatidyl choline is composed partly of choline, the precursor for the vital neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which sends nerve signals to your brain.

Choline is important to brain development, learning and memory. Since it plays a vital role in fetal and infant brain development, it’s particularly important for pregnant and nursing women.

Recent Research Highlights Value of Phospholipid-Bound DHA

Recent research2 by Rhonda Patrick, Ph.D., highlights the value of DHA bound to phospholipids — such as that found in krill oil — showing this particular form may actually reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s in those with the apolipoprotein E4 (APOE4) gene.

The APOE4 gene, which predisposes you to this degenerative brain disorder and lowers the typical age of onset, is thought to be present in about one-quarter of the population, so this information could prove invaluable for many. Having a single copy of the gene raises your risk two- to threefold. Being a carrier of both copies can raise your risk fifteenfold.

Two hallmarks of Alzheimer’s are amyloid beta plaques and tau tangles, both of which impair normal brain functioning. Alzheimer’s patients also have reduced glucose transport into their brains, and this is one of the reasons why plaque and tangles form and accumulate. As explained by Patrick in her press release:3

“DHA promotes brain glucose uptake by regulating the structure and function of special proteins called glucose transporters located at the blood-brain barrier, the tightly bound layer of cells that limits passage of substances into the brain …

DHA … naturally occurs in a triglyceride form and a phospholipid form. Eating DHA-rich fish slows the progression of Alzheimer’s disease and improves symptoms in APOE4 carriers. However, some evidence suggests that taking DHA supplements, which largely lack the phospholipid form, does not.”

DHA in Phospholipid Form May Be Ideal for Those at High Risk for Alzheimer’s

According to Patrick, this variation in response appears to be related to the different ways in which the two forms of DHA are metabolized and ultimately transported into your brain.

When the triglyceride form of DHA is metabolized, most of it turns into non-esterified DHA, while the phospholipid form is metabolized primarily into DHA-lysophosphatidylcholine (DHA-lysoPC). While both of these forms can cross the blood-brain barrier to reach your brain, the phospholipid form does so far more efficiently. Patrick explains:4

“Whereas non-esterified DHA passes through the blood-brain barrier via passive diffusion, the phospholipid form, DHA-lysoPC, enters via a special transporter called Mfsd2a.

Previous studies have found APOE4 disrupts the tight junctions of the blood-brain barrier, leading to a breakdown in the barrier’s outer membrane leaflet and a subsequent loss of barrier integrity. One end result of this loss is impaired diffusion of non-esterified DHA.”

According to Patrick, people with APOE4 have a faulty non-esterified DHA transport system, and this may be why they’re at increased risk for Alzheimer’s. The good news is that DHA-lysoPC can bypass the tight junctions, thereby improving DHA transport, and for those with one or two APOE4 variants, taking the phospholipid form of DHA may therefore lower their risk of Alzheimer’s more effectively.

“When looking at the effects of DHA on cognitive function in people with APOE4-related Alzheimer’s disease, it’s important that researchers consider the effects of DHA in phospholipid form, especially from rich sources such as fish roe or krill, which can have as much as one-third to three-quarters of the DHA present in phospholipids,” Patrick says.5

“That’s where we’re most likely to see the greatest benefits, particularly in vulnerable APOE4 carriers.”

Omega-3 Fats Linked to Healthy Aging

In other related news, researchers have again linked omega-3 intake to healthier aging. This prospective cohort study6 included data from more than 2,600 seniors collected between 1992 until 2015. Blood levels of omega-3 were obtained at the beginning and end of the study.

In that period, only 11 percent of participants experienced healthy aging, quantified as the number of years a person lives without physical or mental health problems or disability. Those with the highest omega-3 blood levels were 18 to 21 percent more likely to live longer, healthier lives. 

Interestingly, EPA was found to be the most important factor in this study. Those with the highest levels of EPA were 24 percent less likely to experience unhealthy aging, compared to those with the lowest EPA levels.

Other omega-3s measured included the animal-based docosapentaenoic acid (DPA) and the plant-based alpha linolenic acid (ALA). DPA was the second-most important factor, while ALA, like DHA, had no significant impact on healthy aging. The researchers speculate that one of the reasons for these findings is omega-3s beneficial impact on heart health. For example,

  • Two parallel studies7,8 published in 2008 found fish oil supplements worked better than placebo and the cholesterol-lowering drug Crestor in patients with chronic heart failure.
  • Research published in 2016 found eating fatty fish and other omega-3 rich foods may lower your risk of a fatal heart attack by about 10 percent.9,10,11
  • Heart attack survivors who took 1 gram of marine-based omega-3 per day for three years were found to have a 50 percent reduced risk of sudden cardiac death.12

EPA Also Lowers Heart Disease Risk

EPA specifically has also been linked to a lower risk for heart disease. Most recently, a study13 involving a highly-processed form of EPA (a proprietary prescription formulation of fish oil called Vascepa) found it lowered cardiovascular health risks by 25 percent compared to a placebo containing mineral oil. This included heart attacks, strokes, bypass surgery and chest pain requiring hospitalization.

The drug trial was called REDUCE-IT and was done for five years. Perhaps the most unusual aspect of this trial is that they used a far higher dosage than is typically used in these types of studies. Participants received 4 grams of EPA per day, which is two to four times more EPA than typically given.

A 25 percent reduction in cardiovascular risk is typically what you see with the use of statins, and this significant reduction is believed to be a byproduct of EPA’s ability to lower triglycerides. Now, while this study strongly supports the use of marine-based omega-3s, it’s important to realize that Vascepa is a highly-processed form of omega-3.

With a price tag of $2,500 a year, it’s also one of your more expensive alternatives. Aside from being far less expensive, I still believe krill oil may be a superior choice, in part because it’s bound to phospholipids, which increases absorption and may be particularly important for those at high risk for Alzheimer’s. Krill also naturally contains astaxanthin, a very potent and powerful antioxidant, and the reason krill oil is far less prone to oxidation than fish oil.

Studies such as the REDUCE-IT trial do confirm and support health predictions made in “Superfuel,” though, with a key point being that most people need far higher doses than previously thought. As suggested in the REDUCE-IT trial, an ideal dose appears to be between 3 and 4 grams of DHA and EPA combined (although the only way to be sure is to measure your omega-3 blood level, which I’ll discuss below).

To learn more about the ins and outs of omega-3 and omega-6 fats, be sure to order your copy of “Superfuel.” Remember, all preorders will receive three free gifts, so place your order today.


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Your Blood Level, Not the Dosage, Is Key for Optimization

While identifying an ideal dosage is important, it’s not the most crucial consideration. The fact that some studies have failed to find any health benefits from omega-3 suggests dosage is a flawed parameter. For example, a recent Cochrane Collaboration review14 concluded omega-3 supplementation has little to no discernible benefit for heart health or longevity.

One explanation for this is the fact that many nutritional studies look at dosage rather than blood levels. GrassrootsHealth vitamin D researchers have clearly demonstrated the importance of looking at achieved blood levels of a nutrient.

When studies look at dosage, no apparent benefits of vitamin D supplementation are found. However, when you look at people’s blood level — the concentration of the nutrient in the body — truly dramatic effects are detected. A similar situation exists with omega-3, as the most important parameter is your blood level, known as your omega-3 index, not any particular dose.

The reason for this is because people metabolize nutrients at different rates, and while one may need a very small dose to achieve a certain blood level, another may need several times that dose. Requirements for omega-3 will also vary depending on your lifestyle; your intake of fatty fish, for example, and your level of physical activity.

For this reason, I recommend getting your omega-3 level tested on an annual basis, and to adjust your dosage based on what you need to achieve an omega-3 index of 8 percent or higher. So, while a general recommendation is to take 3 to 4 grams of omega-3 per day, the only way to really know whether this is too much or too little is to get tested. We offer a convenient, no doctor required, omega-3 index test for your convenience.



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Natural Whipped Body Butter Recipe

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diy natural body butter recipe homemade gift

I love making natural beauty products as gifts, and homemade body butter is one friends and family always love to receive. It’s a gift that is easy to personalize with custom natural scents (and even can help with sleep if you add a little magnesium!).

Put the finished product in a cute glass jar with ribbon and a tag, and you have a thoughtful and beautiful gift that will make them feel pampered for months.

Even if you aren’t typically the type to make your own gifts, this recipe is easy for DIY beginners and fun to make. Give it a try!

Why Body Butter?

Body butter is thicker than lotion and contains less water. This means it takes longer to penetrate the skin (don’t walk on a floor barefoot after applying body butter to your feet!) but it’s very moisturizing and softens even those tougher, very dry spots like the knees, elbows, and feet.

By whipping body butter, you get the best of both worlds since it is soft and easy to apply but still extra moisturizing.

How to Make Body Butter

This new recipe has similar ingredients to these homemade lotion bars, but removes the beeswax and whips the mixture as it cools to create a cloud-like lotion that is extremely nourishing!

This body butter is great for babies or sensitive skin, and scents can be added to make it a custom gift for anyone (or to keep for yourself!).

My current favorite is a peppermint-scented version for the holidays, but I also like a citrus/lavender combination.

Homemade Whipped Body Butter Recipe

The combination of shea and cocoa butter with two nourishing oils makes a highly moisturizing combination, but whipping the mix helps it go on smoothly without being oily.

Body Butter Ingredients

Optional: Cocoa butter, shea butter, and mango butter are all interchangeable in this recipe. If you only have one or two on hand, feel free to substitute or play with different proportions.

Body Butter Instructions

  1. In a double boiler or glass bowl, combine all ingredients except essential oils.
  2. Bring to medium heat and stir constantly until all ingredients are melted.
  3. Remove from heat and let cool slightly. Add essential oils if using.
  4. Move to fridge and let cool another hour or until starting to harden around the edges but still somewhat soft.
  5. Use a hand mixer to whip for 10 minutes until fluffy.
  6. Return to the fridge for 10-15 minutes to set.
  7. Store in a glass jar with a lid and use as you would regular lotion or body butter. If your home stays above 75 degrees, it may soften and need to be kept at the fridge, but it will stay whipped at a temperature lower than that.
  8. Keep for yourself, or give away! Enjoy!

Body Butter FAQ

This recipe has been around for a while, so here are some of the questions you’ve asked the most:

Will it be greasy?

Body butter is definitely more emollient and has a heavier texture than lotion does, but after a few minutes it will penetrate the skin and lose any greasy feel.

How long will it last?

Stored away from moisture and light this homemade body butter should last 6-8 months. Using a spoon or spatula to dip rather than your fingers will extend the life of the body butter.

Why is mine not white like yours?

Shea butter especially can vary in texture and color depending on the brand. Not to worry, it will still work just as well!

Will this clog my pores?

Nope! This body butter actually did wonders on my cystic acne back in the day.

Other Body Butter Variations

Mastered the recipe? Try mixing up your own combinations! Here are some ideas to get you started:

Ever made your own body butter? Want to try this recipe? Share below!

How to make simple and luxurious whipped body butter with shea butter and natural oil



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Canada’s first successful heart transplant was 50 years ago this week. Here’s how it happened

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In mid-November 1968, a team of cardiologists at St. Michael’s Hospital received a call they had been waiting on for months.

An 18-year-old man had been badly injured in an accident, they learned. He was ruled brain dead, but his heart was still beating.

It was a tragedy that set into motion the first successful heart transplant in Canadian history, which marks its 50th anniversary on Saturday.

“We never had any hesitation,” said Dr. John K. Wilson, now 93. “We were ready. The team was ready.”

A year earlier, in 1967, Wilson had identified a potential recipient for a heart transplant, Charles Perrin Johnston, who had been suffering from heart failure and appeared headed toward an early death.

“I told him at the time, almost facetiously, ‘Hey, maybe we can give you a new heart in a year’s time,'” Wilson remembers telling Perrin Johnston.

Charles Perrin Johnston lived for six years after receiving a new heart in 1968. At the time of his death, no transplant recipient had lived longer. (St. Michael’s Hospital)

The golden age of cardiology

In December 1967, the South African doctor Christiaan Barnard performed the world’s first human-to-human heart transplant — an earlier transplant had been attempted using a chimpanzee heart — though the recipient lived for just 18 days after the surgery.

In Canada, several hospitals were jockeying to become the first to replicate the operation, though early attempts were met with fast deaths or incapacitated patients.

In May of 1968, Albert Murphy became the first Canadian to receive a new heart, though he died within hours of the operation, performed at the Montreal Heart Institute.

In the following months, Toronto General and Toronto Western hospitals also attempted heart transplants, though none of the patients recovered.

In the wake of multiple failures and amidst a growing media frenzy around the race between the three Toronto hospitals, the team at St. Michael’s took their shot at the potentially life-saving operation on Nov. 17, 1968.

The transplant was to be performed by Dr. Clare Baker, with Wilson providing support during Perrin Johnston’s recovery.

Dr. Clare Baker was the surgeon who carried out the operation. Baker died in 2010. (St. Michael’s Hospital)

“We had to have confidence. And if anybody gave the image of being a confident performer, a confident surgeon, a capable surgeon, it was Dr. Clare Baker,” Wilson remembered about his colleague, who died in 2010.

That confidence and preparation ultimately translated into a successful surgery.

“He left the operating room like any other patient, with a beating heart,” Wilson said.

Perrin Johnston went on to live six years with his new heart. At the time of his death, he was the longest lived male heart transplant recipient in the world.

When doctors later asked him how they did it, “maybe we said more prayers at St. Michael’s Hospital,” Wilson would say with a laugh.

Surgery inspired future doctors

Shortly after Perrin Johnston’s transplant, Dr. Robert Chisholm arrived at St. Michael’s as a medical student. He says the experience of watching Dr. Wilson and Dr. Baker during their breakthrough years altered the course of his career.

“That two month experienced changed my life,” said Chisholm, who started his tenure at St. Mike’s without a medical specialty. He has now worked as a cardiologist at the hospital since the 1970s.

“It was a very exciting time because the world was kind of watching us,” he added. “We had pretty good success in those early days.”

Dr. Robert Chisholm worked with Dr. John K. Wilson and Dr. Clare Baker as a student in the late 1960s. The experience inspired him to pursue a speciality in cardiology. (Martin Trainor/CBC)

While the techniques used in cardiology have advanced considerably since the 1960s, Chisholm says the approach taken by Wilson and Baker should serve as a powerful lesson to their modern contemporaries.

“The key to their success, I think, was judgment,” he said. “And that still applies today.”

Failed surgeries following breakthrough

Following Perrin Johnston’s surgery, Baker, Wilson and the St. Michael’s cardiology team travelled around the world, sharing their findings at medical conferences filled with doctors still struggling to perform the operation.

In total, Wilson and the team carried out five heart transplants at St. Michael’s, though the last two were unsuccessful.

They stopped performing transplants after those failures, due to advancements in other areas of cardiology and a need for anti-rejection medications that were not yet developed.

Still, Wilson looks back fondly on his years at the cutting edge of the specialty, knowing that his team’s success informed the work of doctors around the world, and elevated the profile of his hospital as a result.

“We were pretty proud that we were able to present a successful transplant,” he said. “We showed that it can be done.”

According to the latest figures from the Canadian Institute for Health Information, 170 Canadian received heart transplants in 2015.



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Trying to bridge the ‘genomic divide’: Lack of Indigenous data a challenge for researchers

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A prominent U.S. senator turned to genetic testing last month to try to prove her claim that she had Indigenous ancestry.

But in assessing Elizabeth Warren’s DNA, the geneticists were forced to use samples from Mexico, Peru and Colombia because there were no samples from American Indigenous peoples in the reference databases. 

Because the data is missing, Indigenous geneticists Krystal Tsosie of Vanderbilt University and Matthew Anderson of Ohio State University argue that Warren’s test results, which showed Native American ancestry six to 10 generations ago, are a reach.

Many more researchers have joined the discussion regarding Warren’s DNA test results, weighing in on the problems inherent in using genetic databases to unearth Indigenous ancestry.

Indigenous data is missing because “Native American groups within the U.S. have not chosen to participate in recent population genetic studies,” wrote Carlos Bustamante, the geneticist studying Warren’s DNA. That information gap for Indigenous groups exists around the world, including Canada. 

“The Warren news was a distraction from the real work,” said Laura Arbour, one of the lead scientists for the Silent Genome project recently funded by Genome Canada and Genome British Columbia. 

Arbour and her colleagues are trying to develop strategies to better engage Indigenous communities in genomic research.

She describes a growing “genomic divide” that reflects the apparently insatiable appetite among people with a European background to give their DNA to large databases in return for predictions regarding future health and well-being.

Precision medicine

Bridging this “genomic divide” will allow Indigenous people to benefit from a future with precision medicine, says Arbour.

The term precision medicine refers to the use of genomic data to predict which drug will work best for each person.

But precision medicine cannot serve Indigenous people if their reference data is missing.

The lack of representation of Indigenous genomes in large databases reflects a general wariness in that group caused in part by historical cases of genetic research gone wrong. 

One study considered by leading geneticists including Roderick McInnes, former institute director in the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, as a game changer involved the Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations on Vancouver Island.

The Nuu-chah-nulth have a high frequency of rheumatoid arthritis. The research team collected DNA samples from approximately half of the First Nations members to study the genetic basis for the disorder.

The genetic determinants of rheumatoid arthritis weren’t found, but that wasn’t the big problem. Researchers sent the DNA samples to external facilities for genetic ancestry studies without the knowledge or consent of the participants.

That action created concern around privacy and possible exploitation through the use of the genetic data for commercial gain, Tsosie and Anderson wrote in a piece posted on The Conversation.

Positive relationships

On the other hand, there are examples of positive relationships between Indigenous groups and non-Indigenous genetic researchers. 

Members of the Gitxsan nation in British Columbia, for instance, told Arbour and her colleagues about the high prevalence of sudden cardiac death in their community.

The Gitxsan not only initiated the research into the genetic cause for this disease but also helped supervise the work through advisory and governance committees.

When geneticists were assessing U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren’s DNA, they had to use samples from Mexico, Peru and Colombia because there were no samples from American Indigenous peoples in the reference databases. (Charles Krupa/Associated Press)

With that co-operative relationship, the research team found the genetic basis for the prevalence of Long QT syndrome, which can cause sudden cardiac death, in the Gitxsan. A gene mutation was found to be responsible for disrupting normal cardiac rhythm. The Gitxsan could then be effectively treated for Long QT syndrome after that discovery.  

Arbour also sees a need to customize the practices for DNA collection in Indigenous communities so that they maintain control.

One little-known aspect about most genetic testing projects, such as the 1000 Genomes Project or 23andMe, is that they, not the donor, retain ownership of the sample.

Indigenous leaders don’t want this to happen in studies of their people.

DNA obtained from an Indigenous individual should be considered “on loan” to the researcher just for the purpose of the specific research project, says Arbour. Ownership of the sample should be retained by the individual with the future potential to be stored in a “tribal-controlled DNA bank,” she says.

Calls for Indigenous leadership

Indigenous leaders have long recognized the need for Indigenous scientists to take ownership of the research conducted with their DNA.

Writing in the Hill Times last month, Natan Obed, president of the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, a national, non-profiit organization representing 60,000 Inuit, said that “Inuit are the most researched people in the world — yet with colonial approaches to research … our role is imagined as marginal and of little value.”

He also recently renewed his call for Inuit leadership in the three major Canadian research agencies: the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.  

Laura Arbour, one of the lead scientists for the Silent Genome project recently funded by Genome Canada and Genome British Columbia, and her colleagues are trying to develop strategies to better engage Indigenous communities in genomic research. (Brad Lyle, Genome BC)    

Building capacity for Indigenous leadership in genomic research takes time. 

But real change could come through the work of programs like SING, which stands for the Summer Internship for Indigenous Peoples in Genomics.

This educational program initiated at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in 2011 and sponsored by multiple agencies including the National Institutes of Health was geared primarily for Indigenous students in a university undergraduate or graduate degree program in the U.S. but has since spread to Canada and New Zealand. 

The SING workshops aim to give Indigenous students interested in genetic science additional skills and knowledge that would help them move into advisory and leadership roles within genetic research. The workshops of approximately 20 participants have been held annually at multiple U.S. university venues, most recently in Seattle earlier this year.

Katrina Claw, a former SING participant and now a leader of the program in the U.S., says there have been participants from 44 First Nations, including mostly students who are interested in genomic, social and political sciences. 

The SING training workshops include basic scientific methods in DNA sequencing and analysis along with tutorials on the principles of informed consent and ethics relating to DNA data sharing. 

Faculty positions

The Indigenous leader of SING Canada, Kim TallBear, an associate professor in the Faculty of Native Studies at the University of Alberta, says that genomics research must also be taught with the view of correcting the history of disciplinary mistakes made by scientists.

A significant proportion of SING participants enter the program with a background in genomic science or the social and political sciences and with the intention of learning about Indigenous genomics from a “bioethical and decolonizational perspective,” said TallBear.

The goal of the SING workshops is starting to be realized. According to TallBear, Anderson is another great example of someone of Indigenous descent who started with SING as a graduate student, came up through the ranks to become an assistant professor and is already leading discussions around genomic research in Indigenous communities.



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