Could Biotech Have Saved My Grandma?

My grandma Sylvia (left) and her twin Bobbie (right — I think)

My biological grandmother died around a month after childbirth due to food sensitivities.

She’d already had two kids, and her pregnancy with my mom had gone well. In fact, she said she’d never felt better. But things soon took a turn for the worse. Sylvia, my grandma, had many bouts of ulcerative colitis before but never any as bad as the one that took her life. We’re still not entirely sure what led to her death, but we have a hunch it was the diet of bread and milk the hospital fed her.

When she went to the hospital, no one thought it was a huge deal: She’d been many times before and had always made a full recovery.

She was pretty calm upon admission, even taking time to ask that her mother, who stressed her out, not be informed.

Three times a day the nurses brought in trays of warm milk and soft white bread that they thought was gentle on the stomach. “You’ll be back at home with that baby of yours in no time,” they said.

In fact, they were so sure of her recovery that they didn’t take into account her diet when she started going downhill. Within days she had passed away.

Later in life, both my mom and my aunt found they had bad reactions to both dairy and wheat. Surprise! Just what they fed Sylvia in the hospital. These sensitivities are genetic.

Had Sylvia’s personalized nutrition needs been taken into account, she might still be here today. She might have gotten to watch her kids grow up and meet her grandchildren.

Food has both the power to heal and the power to harm. Personalized nutrition through blood tests and bioprinting could make sure this never happens again.

Check out this video — overdramatic? Maybe. Reality? Absolutely.

We all know someone with a food sensitivity.

The incidence of food sensitivity has increased remarkably in the past 15 years, and we don’t see that slowing down any time soon. According to foodallergy.org, 15 million Americans alone deal with some kind of food sensitivity. That’s 15 million lives that would be easier with bioprinting.

Incidence of U.S. food allergies

We’re talking food as medicine here — over a lifetime and in a moment. Personalized nutrition can both prevent reaction and prevent the development of disease.

At the end of the day, that’s why I wrote this book. It’s time for us to regain control over the impacts of what we eat. Giving someone the power to print food that’s perfect for them, to wipe out the suffering that comes with allergies for which there is no cure, and to open up a whole new world of culinary possibilities — this offer is just too good to pass up.

Contact me at sgt26@georgetown.edu with any and all questions or thoughts. To learn more, check out Printing Your Dinner: Personalization in the Future of Food, available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle starting June 11!