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Twitter, Research Tool

Social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook have been credited with helping to start revolutions in Egypt, Tunisia, and other countries in the Middle East. But, says Genomics Law Report's Dan Vorhaus, social media's influence doesn't need to be limited to politics — personalized medicine could become the next area that owes its development to such platforms. Last month, an online patient community called PatientsLikeMe published a study in Nature Biotechnology in which it analyzed self-reported data from 600 patients to show that the use of lithium had no effect on the progression of Lou Gehrig's disease, Vorhaus says. "The Nature Biotechnology publication is a validation of the company's efforts and, while not a substitute for traditional clinical trials, the PatientsLikeMe approach does demonstrate that social media tools, including networks of like-minded individuals (in this case ALS patients) 'can provide supplementary data to support effective decision-making in medicine and discovery,'" he adds, quoting the company's co-founder Jamie Heywood. And this study is simply the latest development in an ongoing trend, Vorhaus says — companies like 23andMe are using customer-driven data from their DTC genetic tests and social media to find novel genetic associations for disease, and several nonprofit companies have been founded by parents whose children suffer from genetic diseases to aid in the search for causes and treatments.

The Scan

Fertility Fraud Found

Consumer genetic testing has uncovered cases of fertility fraud that are leading to lawsuits, according to USA Today.

Ties Between Vigorous Exercise, ALS in Genetically At-Risk People

Regular strenuous exercise could contribute to motor neuron disease development among those already at genetic risk, Sky News reports.

Test Warning

The Guardian writes that the US regulators have warned against using a rapid COVID-19 test that is a key part of mass testing in the UK.

Science Papers Examine Feedback Mechanism Affecting Xist, Continuous Health Monitoring for Precision Medicine

In Science this week: analysis of cis confinement of the X-inactive specific transcript, and more.