SNP’s word of they day: Idiopathic

Illustration by Lewis Mirrett

Illustration by Lewis Mirrett

Word: Idiopathic

Meaning: A condition or disease arising (seemingly) spontaneously from an unknown cause.

Usage: “Idiopathic, from the Latin meaning we’re idiots ’cause we can’t figure out what’s causing it.” — Hugh Laurie as Dr. House

You should know it because: Truly idiopathic sicknesses are rare, especially now that 90 per cent of all health problems can be attributed to a gluten allergy, but they still figure pretty big in pop culture. Look at the new Lady Gaga video, if you will. She’s wheeled into the world’s chicest hospital with a serious, mysterious affliction, the only side-effect of which seems to be that her eyebrows have disappeared; it turns out she’s “sick from reality.” In this way she’s something like Julianne Moore‘s suburban-wife character in Safe, the perfect, disturbing Todd Haynes film I shouldn’t have watched before bed the other night. Moore has what doctors would call an “idiopathic environmental illness” and believes herself to be dying from the chemicals in everything from her mascara to her sofa. So inconvenient! But there is hope for accursed women and men (although, in the movies, men usually seem to know what’s wrong with them) as of late. Scripps Health has just announced a new clinical research study using whole genome sequencing to determine the causes of idiopathic human diseases. Doctors can look at a person’s entire genetic code to find the glitch. Soon there’ll be no health-related mysteries.

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