New Feature Empowers People to Impact Discovery Even More Directly

When scientific studies are representative of people’s lives, then the discoveries that result will be more broadly applicable to and successful for all. This means we, as study participants and partners, must be able to engage directly with researchers while preserving our privacy. We’re excited to share a new LunaDNA innovation that achieves just that. 

The traditional study protocol lacks direct participant engagement and thus limits high-quality, long term data collection, restricts invitations to new studies and clinical trials, and jeopardizes the preservation of personal data privacy. Often, researchers resort to gathering retrospective, fragmented data which misses the critical context of lived experiences of those managing a health condition. Through Luna, we are enabling people to share what their needs and priorities are for improving health and enabling researchers to react to what they are learning, and nimbly adjust their data collection to dig deeper in areas that are showing significant importance. 

With study participants more directly involved, researchers can follow up with them to ask for additional information to augment their study, invite them to join new studies and clinical trials, remind them to complete study requests, and share insights from their analyses. 

The ability to dynamically reconnect with study participants while they maintain their anonymity is a challenging problem for most platforms because they were not built in a participant-centered manner.  LunaDNA was built with privacy-by-design and with individual data control compliant with modern consumer privacy laws like General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). LunaDNA enables an intricate connection of participants and their shared data that protects the participants’ privacy, secures their health data, but also enables the possibility of privacy-protected communication between researchers and participants. 

What can participants expect?  

People control which researchers can contact them based on the communities and studies they join. They can also choose to allow any researchers to contact them, which provides them with opportunities to join studies and clinical trials. When a researcher contacts them, individuals receive an email from LunaDNA informing them they have a message in their account. Once they login, they can access the researcher’s message in their notification center.

To drive better health breakthroughs faster, people must be at the center of research, working alongside researchers to find the answers to our greatest health questions. Recontact Agent™ is one of many LunaDNA solutions that are reshaping the way research is done. Sign up for LunaDNA today to join the community-breaking barriers in research. Already a member? Log in to your secure account to ensure you’re leveraging Recontact Agent™ to directly contribute to health discovery.    

LunaPBC Announces Joe Beery as New Chief Executive Officer

New Funding and Leadership Supports Operational and Commercial Scaling

SAN DIEGO, May 18, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — LunaPBC, manager of LunaDNA, a health data platform uniting people, communities, and researchers, has experienced rapid growth in adoption, as the demand from communities, researchers, and regulators for direct accounting and engagement of individual’s health and lived experience increases. The Company announces new executive leadership and funding to scale its platform and services.

The Company is excited to announce that Mr. Joe Beery has been named Chief Executive Officer of LunaPBC, Inc. effective today. Beery joins President and Co-founder, Dawn Barry, to lead the Company. Bob Kain, LunaPBC’s Co-founder who has served as Chief Executive Officer since Company formation in 2017, will remain active with the Company in the role of Executive Chairman of the Board.

“I am grateful to have had the role of CEO in building this Company,” said Bob Kain. “We have created a novel business model that enables our mission to provide a shared platform for patients, communities, and researchers looking for answers to improve clinical outcomes and quality of life. I am excited to move into a new role within the Company and support Joe in his transition to CEO.”

Beery brings industry-leading experience in operational and commercial scaling of innovative information technology systems, having served as the Chief Information Officer for four multibillion-dollar enterprises – America West Airlines, US Airways, Life Technologies, and Thermo Fisher Scientific. As CEO, Beery will draw on his expertise in strategic technology operations, digital and business transformations, cybersecurity, global M&A integrations, and disruptive innovation to grow the Company and scale LunaDNA technology.

“Joe has been a force in the development of scale in many industries, including at the vanguard in digitalization of the life and health sciences industries,” said Dr. Scott Kahn, LunaPBC’s Chief Information and Privacy Officer. “His deep understanding of digital transformation, scientific research, and therapy development make him an ideal choice to guide the growth of Luna as we continue to empower patients as partners in health science and keep them connected with ongoing research over time.”

With participation from more than 180 countries and communities advancing causes including disease-specific, public health, environmental, and emerging interests, LunaDNA technology empowers these collectives to gather a wide range of data –  health records, lived-experience, disease history, genomics, and more. LunaDNA technology gives academia and industry everything they need from engagement with study participants to data analysis in compliance with HIPAA, GDPR, and CCPA and across multiple modalities using a common data model. By providing privacy-protected individuals a way to continually engage, LunaDNA technology transforms the traditional patient-disconnected database into a dynamic, longitudinal discovery environment where researchers, industry, and community leaders can leverage a range of tools to surface insights and trends, study disease natural history and biomarkers, and enroll in clinical studies and trials.

“In addition to Joe’s outstanding business experience, he brings a deeply personal and relevant life experience having had twin children born with a rare genetic disorder that was ultimately diagnosed and treated as a result of their family’s extraordinary activism for their kids,” said Dawn Barry, LunaPBC’s President. “Joe is also a champion for diversity and inclusion, drawing from his Hispanic heritage.”

Beery’s appointment coincides with the close of new funding. Key investors in this round include returning investors, ARCH Venture Partners, F-Prime Capital, and Osage University Partners.  John Tishler and Jason Jones of Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP acted as legal counsel for LunaPBC in the financing. The funds will be used to accelerate our goal of digitally transforming health research and include expanding the software engineering and marketing teams, increasing community onboarding-to-discovery velocity, augmenting analysis and discovery tools, and enhancing user experience to optimize participant’s ability to share more health data and outcomes thus further enhancing the discovery potential.

“I am honored to be part of this exciting Company and team. Luna is at the forefront of efforts to digitally integrate individuals, communities, industry, and research,” said Joe Beery. “Luna’s platform and services are ready to scale and drive significant value to all of our customers. From both a personal and professional perspective, I see the alignment in both technology and services that Luna provides as key in accelerating the realization of discovery and patient outcomes. We are in a wonderful position to leverage and scale the unique capabilities built by the Company founders.”

About LunaPBC and LunaDNA
Founded in 2017, LunaPBC is a public benefit corporation headquartered in San Diego, California. Our team, investors, and advisors are renowned in the patient-advocacy, health, and science fields. With participation from over 180 countries and communities advancing causes including disease-specific, public health, environmental, and emerging interests, LunaDNA technology empowers these collectives to gather a wide range of data – health records, lived experience, disease history, genomics, and more – to advance research that addresses their unique health needs. LunaDNA makes discovery representative of the real world and aligned with people’s true goals by giving all individuals a role in research from right where they are. 

Media Contact:
Genevieve Lopez
LunaPBC, Inc.
Phone: (760) 218-8333

New Variants in Alzheimer's Treatment

New Genetic Variants May Unlock Future Therapies for Alzheimer’s

By Contributing Writer Reena Jordyn

About five million — or 1 in 10 — Americans aged 65 and older have symptomatic Alzheimer’s disease (AD).

While there are medications that help slow down the development of cognitive symptoms, there’s no available treatment to prevent the disease’s progression altogether. AD has been around since the early 1900s, but research on the subject remains scarce. Previously, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) allocated less than $500 million for research focused on AD, less than half of the budget meant for research on other serious conditions like AIDS ($3 billion) and cancer ($5 billion).

Perhaps a number of other factors come into play, too, such as the gender and racial disparities of AD. Of over five million AD incidences in the U.S., two-thirds occur in women. Researchers point to women’s longevity as a major reason behind these figures. Additionally, women’s brain anatomy, function, and development may lend themselves to AD – women’s brains accumulate greater tangle burden than men’s. Furthermore, African-American women, in particular, are twice more likely to acquire AD and other forms of dementia compared to their white peers. Similarly, Hispanic women are also more predisposed to AD, the risks being one and a half times greater than in white women. Differences in health, lifestyle, education, physical activity, and socioeconomic factors are thought to be contributory factors. These disparities and their ensuing bias could’ve been limitations for earlier research— luckily, we’re experiencing societal and scientific progress like never before.

Discovering the Klotho and RBFOX1 Variants
Much of what we know today points to genes playing a major part in the disease’s development. Over three decades ago, scientists have found the gene variant ApoE4 as a main contributor to Alzheimer’s. The prevalence of copies of this gene increases the risk for AD. A recent study by Stanford University School of Medicine investigators discovered a new gene variant that could help stave off AD: klotho. The researchers contrasted the likelihood of AD development in subjects with a single copy of the klotho variant against those without. The results revealed that those carrying one copy of the klotho variant had a 30% lower risk of developing AD. It was found that a single copy of klotho substantially slowed the progression of cognitive symptoms and impairment. And klotho was also seen to lower the beta-amyloid burden in ApoE4 carriers, helping mitigate the onset of dementia.

Another study by Timothy Hohman of Vanderbilt University Medical Center and Richard Mayeux of Columbia University Medical Center was able to link a new gene variant to AD. Hohman and Mayeux were able to unearth RBFOX1, a gene variant localized around plaques and in dystrophic neurites, which present heavily in people with AD. This revelation could lead to more advances in gene-specific therapy and precision medicine.

What’s Next for AD Treatment?
Increased awareness about the disease, coupled with stronger support, enables more scientists to conduct more in-depth studies on AD. However, the success of these investigations relies on strong and vast databases, and skilled genetic specialists.

The field needs more scientists, doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals to cast a wider scope. A top nursing career particularly relevant to this field is genetics nursing. Professionals in this field are in a unique position where they can assist patients suffering from genetic diseases as well as conduct genetic-related research simultaneously. This gives them an invaluable viewpoint of the disease, making them ideal researchers and great educators to patients and their carers too. That being said, AD patients, people predisposed to AD, and even the everyday person should be as proactive as those in the field. You can easily do your part by connecting your personal health records with the Luna platform. By doing so, you give researchers access to genetic and lifestyle data, among other pertinent information, which could thrust health discovery even further.

Every step and every grain of information gained is a huge step forward for Alzheimer’s research. In time, there may even be a medication that could present a cure for the dreaded disease.

Genetics of Hair Color

Know Your Health: Genetics of Hair Color

By LunaDNA Contributor

Hair colors are passed down through generations. Sometimes the colors are predictable, and sometimes, unexpected colors occur through a genetic mutation. Learn about the genetics of hair color. 

Hair colors are a spectrum of hues that can range from white blond to coal black. Hair color is inherited, and many genes are involved in the process. Sometimes, unexpected hair color can occur in a child because of a genetic mutation. Some of the genes involved in hair color also influence eye color and skin color.  

Hair color is the result of genetics. Learn about the genetics of hair color and what causes different hair colors in this guide.  

How Is Hair Color Determined? 

Two types of pigment, or melanin, determine hair color. An abundance of eumelanin colors hair black or brown, and an abundance of pheomelanin colors hair orange or red. Every hair color contains some amount of the darker pigment eumelanin. Low levels of eumelanin result in lighter hair, and higher levels result in darker hair.  

The genes responsible for hair color are neither dominant nor recessive — it is a matter of which genes are turned on or turned off. The hair color produced depends on the amount and type of melanin produced by melanocytes (melanin-forming cells). If receptors on the surface of the melanocytes are active, they produce, eumelanin, the pigment responsible for brown or black hair. If the receptors are inactive or blocked, they produce pheomelanin, the pigment responsible for orange or red hair.  

Jet-black hair has large numbers of tightly packed eumelanin. Red hair has large numbers of tightly packed pheomelanin. Blonde hair has both types of melanin, but in very small amounts and loosely packed. Variations lead to a wide range of shades within each hue. Hair color usually darkens as genes are turned on and off during childhood and puberty. Later in life, hair can turn gray and white as fewer pigment cells produce and store melanin. Gray hair has only a little pigment in it, while white hair has no pigment. 

Is Hair Color Genetic? 

Hair color is one of several physical traits that are genetic, or passed down through an individual’s DNA. Human DNA has millions of on and off switches along networks that control how genes function. Genes responsible for hair color come from both parents.  

Although the genes passed down from a child’s parents determine hair color, variations can result in a child having a different hair color than both parents. The genetics of hair color is the result of many genes working together to control the amount and type of melanin. Large amounts of very dense eumelanin produce black hair. Moderate somewhat dense amounts result in brown hair. Very little and thinly dispersed amounts result in blonde hair. If you have mostly pheomelanin with a little eumelanin, red hair is the result. Additionally, a variation in the blond gene can lead to premature graying.  

Is Hair Color Inherited from Mother or Father?

Hair color comes from both parents through the chromosomes passed onto their child. The 46 chromosomes (23 from each parent) have genes made up of DNA with instructions of what traits a child will inherit. The results can be surprising. For example, black-haired parents can unknowingly each carry an unexpressed blond-hair gene that can pass to their fair-haired child. This explains why siblings can have different shades of hair.  

What Does Your Hair Color Mean?

Hair color may be related to your ancestry. Darker hair is more prevalent among people in the southern hemisphere, and lighter hair is more common in the northern hemisphere. Darker hair is associated with areas of harsh sunlight, and lighter hair with areas of less sunshine. However, there are many exceptions due to genetics, migration of people, and other factors. 

Black and Brown Hair

The most common hair colors around the world are black and brown, and it is estimated that over 90 percent of people have black or brown hair. Depending on the levels of pigment, colors range from an almost light-blond brown to dark black.  

Blonde Hair

Blonde hair is produced by low levels of pigment (called eumelanin). Variation in the small amounts of eumelanin accounts for the wide range of blond shades, from platinum blond to dark golden blond. Many people with blond hair develop darker hair later in life. Natural light blond hair in adults is rare.  

Red Hair

Red is the rarest hair color and is thought to be found in around 1 to 2 percent of people worldwide. In the Northern Hemisphere, 2 to 6 percent of people have red hair.  

Red hair ranges from light strawberry blond to deep burgundy, depending on the amount of pheomelanin (red pigment) and eumelanin (brown/black pigment) is present. Auburn hair has a higher concentration of pheomelanin, while chestnut hair has more eumelanin.  

Red hair has fascinated humans throughout history. In fact, the term “redhead” was first noted in the 16th century. In addition, frescos from ancient times depict Hades, the god of the underworld, as a redhead.  

Over time, scientific discoveries have led to a deeper understanding of the genetics that affects hair color. As advancements in genetics and overall health are made, more discoveries will undoubtedly unlock the mysteries of who we are, where we’re from, and why people around the world come in so many shapes, sizes, and hair colors. 

Luna is bringing together people, communities, and researchers to better understand life, including genetic traits like hair color. Directly drive health discovery by joining the Tell Us About You study. The more we come together to contribute health data for the greater good, the quicker and more efficient research will scale, and improve the quality of life for us all.  

Click here to get started.

Are Crooked Teeth Genetic?

Know Your Health: How Your DNA May Affect Your Smile

By LunaDNA Contributor

The causes of crooked teeth are varied. Our ancestry may have interesting clues to the genetics of crooked teeth. Learn about crooked teeth, and how DNA may play a role in overall teeth health. 

According to the American Association of Orthodontists, an estimated 4 million people wear braces on their teeth. However, misaligned teeth are a recent development in human evolution. Early human fossils from cavemen usually have well-aligned, uniform teeth. Some anthropologists believe the development of misaligned teeth occurred when our jaws began shrinking over time due to changes in our diet that required less chewing. Today, we know that some genetic factors, such as jaw size and number of teeth, can affect misalignment, but behaviors and environmental causes are also involved.  

Crooked teeth are common over the last few hundred years, yet skulls from humans that lived thousands of years ago have well-aligned teeth. Fossils show that cavemen didn’t have many dental problems despite the lack of toothpaste and floss. Today, dental consultations are recommended before the age of 8. Learn more about crooked teeth and its genetic connections, including:  

What Causes Crooked Teeth? 

Crooked teeth do not always happen by chance. Habits and maladies that may lead to undeveloped jaws and crowded teeth include

  • Tongue thrusting (also known as reverse swallowing) 
  • Thumb sucking 
  • Prolonged use of pacifiers 
  • Mouth breathing (due to allergies, asthma, and other conditions that cause a person to breath through his or her mouth) 
  • Open mouth posture 
  • Tumors of the mouth and jaw 

These habits and maladies contribute to poor jaw growth, leaving many with misaligned teeth and undeveloped jaws. This improper development can limit the space available for teeth and can prohibit them from growing in the ideal position.  

An undeveloped jaw can lead to a mouth of crowded teeth. Since orthodontia work does not usually start until all permanent teeth come in, teeth might be pulled, because the jaw is deemed too small to accommodate all the teeth.  

Mouth breathing leads to the tongue not resting in the correct position on the roof of the mouth. This can in turn lead to an underdeveloped upper and lower jaw. An upper jaw improperly developed may restrict the airway further. This can keep the mouth open, which might exacerbate the problem.  

Reverse swallowing, also known as tongue thrusting, occurs when the tongue pushes forward and the lips push back when swallowing. A child swallows at least a couple times a minute, so pushing the tongue forward against the teeth can, over time, create a condition called open bite.  

Diet may be a factor too. In the 1930s, Weston Price, an American dentist, studied various groups around the world and found that those employing a primitive diet had little tooth decay, larger jaws, and straight teeth. Orthodontics became a specialty in 1900 in response to bad habits and maladies that children had during the Industrial Revolution. After the Industrial Revolution, people swapped out a natural diet, closer to what their ancestors had eaten, for one of more processed foods. It is possible that this softer diet hindered normal jaw growth because less jaw strength was required.  

Types of Crooked Teeth  

Crooked mouthfuls of teeth come in all shapes and sizes, but there are three general classes of malocclusions, which means misaligned teeth:  

Class 1 occurs when the upper teeth slightly overlap the lower teeth, but the bite is normal. This is the most common type of crooked teeth.  

Class 2 occurs when the upper teeth and jaw severely overlap the lower teeth and jaw and is sometimes called an overbite. Difficulties in chewing can be painful and can lead to headaches and temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ), a painful condition of the joint that connects your jaw to the side of your head.  

Class 3 occurs when the lower teeth project beyond the front of the upper teeth when the jaw closes and is sometimes called an underbite. Those with underbites can have trouble chewing and often suffer from headaches. Overtime, an underbite can cause TMJ.  

Are Crooked Teeth Genetic? 

Humans today are nearly identical to their ancestors who had straight teeth. This suggests that crooked teeth are partly a result of evolution. Some experts believe that the Industrial Revolution, which happened about 150 to 200 hundred years ago, triggered people to have crooked teeth.  

Interestingly, most wild mammals have straight teeth. Some researchers believe that when culture shifted from rural to manufacturing, something went awry. Others think it happened thousands of years earlier, when humans transitioned from hunting and gathering to farming. Ancestral upper and lower jaws of hunter-gatherers were more often better aligned than those of later humans. 

Ancestry of Crooked Teeth 

With the introduction of the modern baby bottle in the mid-1800s, human populations became less reliant on breastfeeding their young. Research has shown that the muscles required for an infant to breastfeed are not used as extensively when a child is bottle-fed. At the end of the 1940s, German dental experts Dr. Wilhelm Balters and Dr. Adolf Müller discovered that babies who had been breastfed had significantly fewer crooked teeth. Studies continue to be conducted to determine if there is a link between the use of bottles and the impact it has on jaw development and crooked teeth.  

Problems Associated With Crooked Teeth 

Crooked teeth make it harder to chew and can put a strain on the jaw, increasing the risk of breaking a tooth. It is also harder to clean crooked teeth, leaving the opening for cavities and other dental maladies. Protruding teeth can rub against and wear down other teeth.  

Beyond this, crooked teeth can impact overall health. This decreases the chance of bacteria going into the pockets of the gums, which can lead to gum disease. Some research suggests that, when bacteria is left untreated, it can enter the bloodstream and may lead to heart disease, diabetes, or stroke.  

While we know some genetic causes for tooth issues, much is still unknown about the connections between genes and dental problems. Researchers are hopeful that recent discoveries will open the door for the development of new and improved dental- and orthodontic-care tactics and treatments.  

Luna is bringing together individuals, communities, and researchers to better understand life, including genetic traits like crooked teeth. Directly drive health discovery by joining the Tell Us About You study. The more we come together to contribute health data for the greater good, the quicker and more efficient research will scale, and improve the quality of life for us all.  

Click here to get started.