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Business Science& Innovation PAGES B5-7 For breaking news go to Pizza, too, was a part of Facebook’s early Boston-area history Engineered salmon faces foes, FDA questions Lexington firm aims to use LEDs to kill oral bacteria Post-recession, the men are shopping again Metro B T H E B O S T O N G L O B E M O N DAY , F E B RUA RY 2 0 , 2 01 2 | B O S T O N G L O B E .C O M / M E T R O Samaritans’ IMs reach out to teens in crisis Adrian Walker Genetic clue carries hope Suicide prevention agency adopts new way to interact By Akilah Johnson GLOBE STAFF They’re cute, the tiny mice that jump around in the tank in Dr. Martin Pollak’s lab at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. But they are more than that; they offer clues to a malady that has bedeviled me for much of my life. Pollak uses the mice to study the genetic causes of kidney disease. Specifically, he has spent several years trying to unravel why kidney disease is far more common among African-Americans than other ethnic groups. Finding the gene he now believes is responsible is the first step in developing treatments, or eventually a cure. As luck would have it, I am a member of one of those black families in which fatal kidney disease has struck. So I have more than a passing interest in this work. The statistics are startling: Though AfricanAmericans are 12 percent of the population, we represent about a third of the kidney failures. Kidney disease is about five times more likely to affect African-Americans than other groups. We represent about 35 percent of the people waiting for transplants. Pollak’s group of researchers isolated a gene at the root of the disease. Known as APOL1, it is a variant that wards off sleeping sickness, a disease mainly borne by tsetse flies that kills tens of thousands of Africans a year. Sleeping sickness is unknown in North America, but the gene is carried by as many as 12 percent of African-Americans. And carriers are five times more likely than whites to develop nondiabetic kidney disease. Pollak estimates the genetic mutation evolved thousands of years ago. ‘‘Until recently, it was more important to be protected against sleeping sickness than kidney disease,’’ said Pollak, using the term recently in the relative sense. ‘‘These genetic variants are so common that I don’t even like using the word ‘mutation,’ ’’ he said. ‘‘It’s really very common, and explains almost all of the variation’’ between ethnic groups. Those who inherit the gene from one parent have a slightly elevated risk of kidney disease, he explained. But those who get it from both parents have more than 10 times the likelihood of developing kidney disease than the general population does. As with any mystery, many questions abound: Why do some people at high risk develop kidney disease, while other people don’t? If the gene is the cause, what’s the treatment? Could there ever be a cure? These are all questions Pollak is wrestling with in his lab near Fenway Park. People with advanced kidney disease have limited options. The major courses of treatment are dialysis, which is debilitating, or transplant. That may not change for years, but Pollak’s discovery could be an important first step. Certainly, any progress would be important to many people who wonder if their family histories indicate risk. My mother died at age 60 in 1993, after more than 20 years on dialysis. She and her doctor strongly suspected that her mother had died of the same thing — their symptoms were similar — though her medical care in the late 1940s was so spotty that it was impossible to say for sure. Thousands of families could tell similar stories. Though kidney disease doesn’t have the public profile of, say, sickle cell anemia, its effects are no less devastating. Though he has been researching ethnicity and kidney disease for 15 years, Pollak may be closer to the beginning than the end. ‘‘We want to understand — at the level of the molecule and the cell — how these are damaging kidneys,’’ he said. ‘‘If we can understand that, we can begin treating people with kidney disease — and even better, prevent people at high risk from getting it.’’ FRAMINGHAM — The clicking computer keys type out the same empathy that these teen volunteers use when answering phone calls at the Samaritans crisis center. ‘‘Um-hms’’ and ‘‘un-huhs’’ typed into an instant message window must do the work usually conveyed by verbal cues. Text shorthand and emoticons are no-nos, so there won’t be any ‘‘IDKs’’ instead of ‘‘I don’t knows,’’ or smiling faces and concerned expressions. Still, all conversations, be they on the phone or online, start pretty much the same: ‘‘Hello. What SUICIDE, Page B4 ESSDRAS M SUAREZ/GLOBE STAFF Ashley Campisano (standing) of Medfield High School and Jessica Kruger of Framingham High School volunteer with the Samaritans. Woman killed in blaze in kitchen Somerville mourns beloved 95-year-old By Alexander C. Kaufman GLOBE CORRESPONDENT JOHN TLUMACKI/GLOBE STAFF Becky Burrill of Harwich walked near a section of a collapsed lot at Herring Cove Beach this month. Sunset fears Erosion threatens a cherished stretch at tip of Cape By Peter Schworm GLOBE STAFF PROVINCETOWN — A sublime stretch on the tip on Cape Cod, Herring Cove Beach is a rare East Coast spot to watch the sun set over the water and even has a parking lot that runs right up to the water. But that proximity comes at a cost, and steady erosion has gnawed away the shoreline, recently causing sections of the parking lot and a protective wall to give way. The scope of the damage — four separate breaches since Christmas — has raised concern that the beach may have to be closed this summer for repairs. Beyond that, residents fear that the prized vantage point, known simply as the ‘‘sunset lot,’’ may before long disappear from the landscape altogether, if coastal officials eventually choose not to fight the waves but simply retreat. ‘‘It’s a tragedy,’’ said Elaine Anderson, a selectwoman in Provincetown. ‘‘It’s a very special place, and this is very serious.’’ George Price, superintendent of the Cape Cod National Seashore, which manages the beach, said he is confident repairs can be completed in time for the beach to open this summer. But the deterioration of the macBEACH, Page B3 Childs’s allegiance to GOP scrutinized Ex-Democrat seeks Frank’s House seat By Melissa Tabeek and Kristina Finn GLOBE CORRESPONDENTS If Republican Elizabeth Childs happens to win the race to succeed US Representative Barney Frank in Congress, the rigidly conservative Republicans who control the US House might have reason to wonder about her party allegiance. That is because Childs, a Brookline psychiatrist, has been either a registered Democrat or an unenrolled vot- Adrian Walker is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @Adrian_Walker. 199 $ Sales tax & dealer fees included $ in payment! brings you to chat today?’’ Samaritans, the nearly 40-year-old suicide prevention organization, modernized its outreach efforts this month by launching a teen-to-teen instant messaging service called IM Hear_, a project in the works for four years. ‘‘We’re raising a whole generation of people who don’t hear their own voices,’’ said Eileen Davis, director of the Samaritans Framingham office. ‘‘They can be . . . having conversations with friends or just be in crisis, and it’s all online with all kinds of windows open.’’ The goal of the instant messaging service is for teens to reach teens, whose crises — depression, suicide, bullying, sexuality — are more acknowledged today but who seldom reach out via the telephone hot line, which generates most of its calls from peo- /mo at signing 1999 due Lease price includes all applicable rebates provided by TFS. ZERO Down and $1999 down lease payments both include Acquisition Fee ($650), taxes, license, and doc fee ($295). $0 Security Deposit. Lease is for 36 months 12000 miles per year. Excess wear and tear $0.15 per mile change for mileage over 12000 miles per year. Program available through Toyota Financial Based on Tier1+ credit.2012 Camry APR is 2.9% up to 60 mos. with Tier 1+ and 1 credit only. Expires 2/20/12 888.451.0948 EMBRACES BIPARTISANSHIP ‘I don’t think the party is as critical as the person,’ said Elizabeth Childs, a Republican running for Congress. er for the last two decades. And she has voted in 11 Democratic state and presidential primaries since 1996, according to a review of her voting records in Brookline. Not once has she opted for a Republican ballot. To be sure, Childs was the state’s mental health commissioner under Governor Mitt Romney, a Republican, although the biography on her campaign website highlights her family camping experience in Alaska before mentioning her appointment by Romney. On that website, childsforconCHILDS, Page B3 SOMERVILLE — Even as her eyesight and hearing deteriorated, 95year-old Mary Giordano lived independently in her two-story house on Boston Avenue and until recently made a daily trek — 1 mile each way — to buy groceries. As on most days, she woke before 7 yesterday morning to brew coffee and make breakfast. But apparently her clothes ignited and flames quickly engulfed the kitchen. She died before firefighters arrived. ‘‘She couldn’t extinguish it,’’ Somerville Fire Deputy Chief Jim Lucia said in a phone interview. Lucia estimated the fire, which was confined to the kitchen, caused $75,000 in damage to the three-bedroom, single-family home at 84 Boston Ave. As carpenters boarded up the eight front windows of the gray wooden house where Giordano raised two daughters, grief-stricken relatives and neighbors stood outside. People went in and out of the house gathering legal documents for the death certificate. Giordano’s granddaughter Sara Connelly said she could not talk yesterday afternoon as she surveyed the house. ‘‘I can’t right now,’’ she said as a tear streamed down from behind sunglasses. ‘‘It’s too soon, too soon.’’ Maria Silva, 61, who lives across the street, said she ran to Giordano’s SOMERVILLE , Page B2 INSIDE Show of solidarity Bridgewater State students plan to rally for a student journalist assaulted over an editorial she wrote. B3 Fatal gunfire A young man was shot and killed in a park on Shawmut Avenue in the South End yesterday. B11 Brand new 2012 CAMRY LE westborotoyota . com

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