Still Learning at Age 88: Reading the Language of Life

My dad is an ardent lifelong learner. Here’s recent post from his private  family blog.

At the Eastern Mennonite University bookstore students and faculty have exclusive access for the first two weeks of the semester. Shortly thereafter, the store’s stacks are opened up to the public. So several of us from the retirement community next door, headed to the bookstore to peruse, purchase, and perhaps read what students are reading.

 One of the fascinating reference books on the bookstore’s shelves, for biology students, was The Language of Life by Frances S. Collins, now the Director of the National Institutes of Health. When I saw this text I decided to give it a go.

I learn that twenty-one million Americans are affected by six thousand so-called rare and orphan diseases, medical conditions which are attributed primarily to misspelled genes. As I read I try to grasp some of the alphabetical soup (DNA, RNA), so basic to today’s post-modern medicine. What else is related? Diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, asthma, and mental illness, are just a few. Collins’ book seeks to unlock secrets, and I am learning much about how genes work, what they contribute, and the risks involved.

 I wonder. Can I at age 88 gather my medical history, unravel mysteries of my double helix, and contribute more information for the health of others?

 Presently I feel like the man in the chariot reading the Book of Isaiah when St. Paul met up with him and asked, “Understandeth what Thou art reading?”

Editor’s Note: Read this article about how Dr. Collins studied his own genes and then modified his personal behavior to help him maintain his health.

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