Marchant Presents at Society for Risk Analysis

Gary E. Marchant

ASU Law Professor Gary Marchant gave two presentations at the annual meeting of the Society for Risk Analysis (SRA) in Denver on Dec. 8 and 9.  Marchant’s first presentation, entitled Nanotechnology: From Harmful to Helpful?,” examined the possible role of hormesis in the toxicology of nanomaterials, and the risk management implications of any such connection.  His second presentation, “Genetic Biomarkers of Risk in Toxic Tort Litigation,” co-presented with CLSI advisory board member Kirk T. Hartley, reported on recent developments in using genetic biomarkers in benzene and asbestos toxic tort cases.  Both presentations are available, below. At the meeting, Marchant was also elected Chair of the Risk, Policy & Law Specialty Group of the SRA for 2015.


TGIF Funny Fix for December 19, 2014


SearCh for humourIstic and Extravagant acroNyms and Thoroughly Inappropriate names For Important Clinical trials (SCIENTIFIC): qualitative and quantitative systematic study

 When somebody loses weight, where does the fat go?

Televised medical talk shows—what they recommend and the evidence to support their recommendations: a prospective observational study

PS: and last, but not least, from the Smithsonian:



Brain Matters! 5: Arizona

Brain 5


The most interesting bioethicist of our time.” -The American Journal of Bioethics.

Thursday, May 28, 2015 to Friday, May 29, 2015 from 8:15am
Scottsdale Resort and Conference
7700 E McCormick Pkwy 
Scottsdale, AZ 85258

More information and CFP flyer can be found here. Deadline January 15th, 2015.


Synthetic Biology’s Future


An  article in The New Yorker this month by Nicola Twilley once again brought home the struggles faced when one is stigmatized by virtue of  having a relative with a bad rap.  We are talking about syn bio and its older cousin, rap star, G.M.O.   As noted in the article, “[w]e used to say we just needed to educate people about the science, … [w]e said that if they understood it, they would accept it.”   Those educated folks, keep banging their heads against the wall, rightfully so, wondering when positions grounded in fiction will give way to outlooks based on sound science.   Unfortunately, they might be in for a wait… After all, how long did it take the masses to accept that the earth revolves around the sun — and not the other way around?  A long time.

Wednesday Web Watch for December 17, 2014


Megan Scudellari @ Bloomberg Businessweek reports on a recent study, involving a handful of athletes, that found merely one season of high-school football, even without concussions, leads to noticeable brain abnormalities.   All it takes for brain changes to occur is a number of “small, successive blows to the head” — damage that affects learning and memory.   The study leaves open a series of unanswered questions, including long-term damage concerns.

Tuesday Triple Trivia for December 16, 2014


3 Questions. 3 Hints. 3 Answers. Every Tuesday.

1. What technology can finally tell the difference between the Doublemint gum twins?


Answer: back in 2004, available forensic tools could not differentiate between DNA belonging to identical twins.  Fast-forward ten years: a genetic test able to make the distinction has been developed and, for the first time, may be introduced as evidence in a criminal case in a U.S. courtroom.   It is called “ultra-deep, next-generation sequencing” and it is sensitive enough to detect random mutations in identical twins.  To be determined is whether the genetic test and its results will be admissible in court.   Read more here.

2. The holiday poinsettia is poisonous.  True or false?


Answer: that’s “false” in Chinese.   Poinsettias are not a health threat despite what some members of the medical profession and the public believed at one time.  The “myth” goes back to 1919 when a story made the rounds that a child in Hawaii died after ingesting a poinsettia leaf.   In fact, no child died and certainly not as a result of eating a misunderstood poinsettia leaf.   Read the details here, along with a fact & fiction poinsettia timeline.

3.  Why might exercise be one way to  prevent, or at least curb, the effects of a genetic predisposition to Alzheimer’s?


Answer: people who carry the e4 version of the APOE gene have an increased risk for developing Alzheimer’s.   Especially if they just sit around.  The correlation between a sedentary lifestyle and disease-development may be mitigated with physical activity, believed to reduce accumulation of the toxic protein beta-amyloid, a trademark of Alzheimer’s.   In 2014, two University of Arizona researchers interestingly suggested that the answer to why exercise protects APOE e4 carriers, lies in human beings’ evolutionary past, further advancing that thousands of years ago, when life demanded great amounts of physical activity, only the high-risk gene variant existed.  According to these researchers, superior metabolism during long and/or intense periods of activity was the upside of the gene.  Its downside, “faster cognitive decline, was counteracted by our ancestors’ active way of life.  As human beings adopted more sedentary habits, other variants [what we presumably now consider "normal"] of the gene appeared, and in modern times [with a more sedentary lifestyle] we are now seeing the negative effect of the high-risk gene more often than its benefit,” claim the scientists.  Read the story here.