In 2003, the Human Genome Project was completed, and as a result, healthcare will never be the same. From this project, scientists learned about the order of the 3 billion units of DNA that make up the human genome. Current studies are in the process of identifying the individual genes that make up long strands of DNA, as well as what controls each gene and what causes certain diseases and reactions in the body.
With genome-based medicine, we now have a greater opportunity than ever to personalize healthcare by analyzing each person’s unique DNA in order to assess their personal risk factors as well as the treatments that will work best for them as an individual.
If there was a blueprint for each person on this planet, it would be the genome because it illustrates a person’s predispositions to certain diseases, how well their immune system will fight disease, how their bodies will metabolize food, and what therapies their bodies will respond to the best. Armed with this information, a person can take steps to reduce their risk factors and improve their health.
Personalized medicine uses that blueprint – the human genome – as well as a person’s environmental and clinical information to treat patients uniquely. Since not everyone will respond to drugs or treatments the same way and since diseases react differently depending on the person, personalized medicine is also known as precision medicine because it allows healthcare providers to treat patients with a much higher degree of precision.
According to U.S. News & World Report, the benefits of personalized medicine include:
Personalized medicine allows each person and their healthcare provider(s) to predict much more accurately what diseases a person is susceptible to so that they can work together to prevent the onset of those diseases, and to properly treat the disease if it does appear.
Many diseases, such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes, are complex diseases that have multigene components that can be caused by errors in a person’s DNA and can therefore be better understood by using a whole-genome approach.
Your genes tell your body how to produce proteins and perform important functions. It is normal for our genes to differ from person to person. For example, bases are often switched or missing, and some of these variations can have an impact on what diseases you might be more likely to get and what medicines will work in your body and which ones will cause unwanted side effects.
Pharmacogenomics is the study of how genes affect the way medicines work in the body. Armed with genomic information, a doctor can much more accurately prescribe medications that will work for you without side effects, as well as the right dosage
Personalized medicine also includes your lifestyle habits and environment. Factors like poor diet, lack of exercise and smoking can have a huge impact on your health, and can impact whether or not you can get a disease even if your are not genetically susceptible.
While personalized medicine is relatively new, many healthcare providers are making this form of treatment available. It starts with having a simple saliva sample taken so that the genome can be sequenced and then interpreting the data to determine the best course of action.
You can take the following steps to personalize your healthcare:
Don’t worry – the Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act of 2008 (GINA) prohibits health insurance companies from determining your eligibility for insurance or determining insurance premiums and employers from discriminating against you based on your genetic or genomic data.
With personalized medicine, the focus is on prevention and wellness. By understanding your risk areas, you can change your lifestyle habits to help prevent those diseases from occurring. It’s healthcare designed specifically for you!