You might imagine personalized medicine to be something spa-like and relaxing as opposed to the sterile image of a clinic. Maybe you think the term “personalized medicine” only applies to those who can afford a luxurious–and expensive–treatment plan like a celebrity or billionaire.
The truth is personalized medicine is a growing practice, science, and advancement in how physicians and scientists approach diagnosis, medication, and treatment.
The field of studying genes–known as genomics–has made a significant impact on not only better understanding DNA but individual and public health.
Genomics also includes the study of genetic material from other organisms besides human genes, including the genetic makeup of viruses. Since the 1970s, the first genome sequence completed was for a virus.
Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, genomics has been responsible for tracking, studying, and anticipating the evolution of the virus.
The Human Genome Project was founded in 1990 with the mission to sequence the entirety of the human genome. As of April 2003, The Human Genome Project had sequenced around 20,000 genes that compose the blueprint of our bodies. Our human genome is comprised of about 3 billion pairs of DNA that have instructions for our anatomy and even unique features like our height, hair color, and eye color.
Not only have we learned more about how our DNA informs our anatomy, but through the study of our genes, scientists can identify pre-existing conditions and potentials for disease.
The field of genomics makes it possible to anticipate, diagnose, and treat diseases with far greater precision and personalization than ever before in human history.
Genomics has led to the field of pharmacogenomics–sometimes called pharmacogenetics–in order to study how our genes can be affected by and how they respond differently to some medicines.
The DNA in our bodies is the instruction manual for cells, telling them what characteristics and features to produce. In some cases, doctors can use our genetic information to better discern which medicines and doses we might respond to more effectively.
This is where personalized medicine comes in. Sometimes referred to as precision or genomic medicine, doctors use this approach to better prevent, diagnose, and treat diseases based on a person’s age, gender, medical conditions, lifestyle, and genetic data, among other factors.
Pharmacogenomics works by understanding how genes can influence our bodies to respond to certain medicines in many ways, such as how the body metabolizes or breaks down the medication.
Not everyone metabolizes medicines the same way, so this can have a great effect on the efficacy of a particular type of medication, and the patient could have a negative reaction.
A doctor may decide to go pharmacogenomic testing (PGX testing) before a patient takes a new medication or switches to another if it’s not working or even causes unwanted side effects. The doctor can collect a sample for pharmacogenomic testing by drawing blood or doing a cheek swab.
Advancements in personalized medicine allow doctors to better treat their patients, and patients can expect a better experience in receiving the care they need.
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