Taking the mystery out of genetic testing

October 31, 2021

For Season 3 of the “Eye Know—Do You?” Podcast, the Two Blind Brothers, aka Bradford and Bryan Manning, explore the topic of genetic testing in a way that’s easy to understand. Funny and engaging, the siblings chat with everyday folks and experts alike, all of them eager to share their personal experiences with genetic testing and help others along their journey. Lend your ears to the IRD airwaves!

Bryan (left) and Bradford (right) Manning.

A popular feature of EyeWant2Know.com, the Eye Know—Do You? Podcast explores the remarkable stories of many who are part of the inherited retinal disease (IRD) community. Each podcast features one aspect of living with an IRD, with a range of guests and subject matter that helps listeners learn more.

Season 3 focuses on genetic testing. Done in a lab, genetic testing means studying a DNA sample, often taken from blood or saliva, to identify differences or mutations that may be responsible for a person’s vision loss. Just as spell-check identifies typos, genetic testing uses DNA sequencing to “read” the genes’ instructions and identify mutations among them. This season digs deep into this topic, using everyday language and experts who explain it plainly.

Bryan (left) and Bradford (right) Manning.

About the hosts: Two Blind Brothers
This season’s hosts are Bradford and Bryan Manning, a pair of affable brothers who live with an IRD themselves. Born with Stargardt disease, the Mannings rely on diminished peripheral vision to navigate their lives. Yet this hasn’t slowed them down: in 2016, they launched the Two Blind Brothers clothing line, which donates 100% of its profits to medical research. With good humor and advocacy, the Mannings have dedicated their lives and livelihoods to funding research.

That passion makes them ideal hosts. The Mannings are knowledgeable, funny, and down-to-earth, bringing a relaxed, conversational tone to the show, with frank observations and plenty of inter-sibling ribbing. What made them take the gig?

“Selfishly, so we could talk to some unbelievable people,” Bryan says, grinning. “It gave us an opportunity to sit with scientists, researchers, and folks with great stories to ask them questions and educate ourselves.” Genetic testing is at the center of their discussions. “So many treatments and clinical trials are coming down the pipe these days,” he adds, “if we can help people learn about the importance of genetic testing as part of their diagnosis, we can empower them for generations to come.”

Episode 1: Pursuing a genetic test with Steve and Kacey Walker
Diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa (RP) as a young Marine, Steve wasn’t aware that genetic testing was an option until a friend suggested it. Once tested, he shared the results with his sisters, inspiring one who was considering pregnancy to get her own test. Steve and his wife, Kacey, discuss how the information the test revealed has proven useful and positive, and brought out the best in both of them. The big takeaway? Knowledge is power. (The Walkers were also featured on EyeWant2Know.com.)

Episode 2: Receiving genetic test results with Ashlyn Lincoln
A Nashville mom tells the story of Gunner, her newborn son, whose eyesight showed limits at just two weeks old. The episode traces her path to a specialist who recommended genetic testing and diagnosed Gunner with Leber congenital amaurosis (LCA)—a rare, inherited eye disorder that results in severe vision loss. Lincoln conveys how overwhelming the process was at times and talks about finding emotional support through the online IRD Community, as well as in providers who answered her many questions.

If we can educate people on the importance of genetic testing as part of their diagnosis, we can empower them for generations to come.

Episode 3: Understanding genetic test results with Stephen Daiger and Emily Place
This science-packed episode sheds light on how testing has evolved over the years. It features Daiger, who directs the Laboratory for Molecular Diagnosis of Inherited Eye Diseases at the University of Houston, as well as Place, a genetic counselor at Massachusetts Eye and Ear in Boston. Brimming with interesting specifics about the state of testing, the expansion of clinical trials, and the amazing strides being made in gene therapy, the episode dispels a number of myths and misperceptions about genetic testing. Tune in to hear the facts.

Episode 4: Ready for science with Ken Getz
The season’s final episode explores the seismic shift happening in our understanding of IRDs and makes a strong case for genetic testing. Getz is a Tufts University School of Medicine professor and the founder of CISCRP, a nonprofit that educates and informs patients about clinical research. He offers optimism and plenty of data as he discusses everything from the FDA’s approval process to enrollment in clinical trials. Speaking of which: Bradford and Bryan invite listeners to check out Foundation Fighting Blindness for more information.

A season to remember

Taken as a whole, Season 3 is an informative, immersive voyage that dispels misconceptions and celebrates the truths about genetic testing. As hosts, the Two Blind Brothers pull it all together with smart conversations and plenty of self-effacing humor.

“For us, the ideal outcome would be if just one person who hears us goes to their doctor and asks: should I get tested?” Bryan says. “We’re hosting this podcast because we want to educate listeners on the importance of genetic testing and empower them to take control of their vision care.”

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