Personalized medicine, also called genomic or precision medicine, uses the interaction between a person’s genetic makeup, their health profile, and the known disease risk to craft medicine tailor-made for that specific individual. Modern medicine is currently geared towards creating drugs and treatments that would work for the most number of patients. Personal medicine breaks the mold by asking whether or not the treatment will work for a specific individual patient. To learn more, checkout this infographic below created by the Adventist University of Health Sciences’ Online Bachelor of Science in Diagnostic Medical Sonography program.
The science behind personalized medicine
Bioinformatics studies biological data to find DNA-based variations in genes or enzymes that impact how different patients respond to particular treatments and genetic markers for disease risk or presence before symptoms even manifest. By taking into consideration a person’s DNA makeup, doctors can make informed decisions on how a specific treatment will affect a person, and know which treatment to avoid and which ones to consider. By having DNA-based information ahead of time, doctors can take preventative measures and determine optimal treatment parameters like dosage more accurately.
The human genome project has been an invaluable fount of knowledge and as we accumulate more and more information about our DNA through the years, we are also able to reduce the amount of money and time needed to sequence the genome of an individual person.
Research and hospital integration
The United States government under President Obama has made precision medicine a part of the 2016 national budget, allocating $130 million to the NIH for accumulating genetic data from 1 million volunteers. Although precision medicine may still be in its infancy, more and more hospitals are integrating genomics research and precision medicine. Currently, more than 6,000 patients have been given tests that examine genetic indicators that can tailor their drug therapies.
Importance of data in personalized medicine
Electronic Health Records
Electronic health records (EHRs) give doctors better access to more information about their patients. The more data a doctor has about the patient’s medical history and health profile, the more informed the decision would be as to which treatment to prescribe. More than 90% of U.S. physicians are now using EHRs and potential widespread use of EHRs could mean more data for future medicinal research. Someday, biomarkers could be stored in EHRs giving doctor’s access to potentially life-saving information that can allow them to make personalized diagnostic and treatment decisions.
Benefits of Health Informatics
The current state of health informatics is growing. There are now 137 FDA-approved medications that have pharmacogenomics information on their labels and there are now more than 1,500 tests for more than 2,800 genes. Fifty percent of all clinical trials collect DNA from patients to aid in research and biomarker development. More and more tests that rely on biomarker data are being developed, which bodes well for the future of precision medicine.
Personalized medicine and genetic testing have significant real world applications. Seventeen thousand strokes per year could be prevented with a genetic test that could help determine the correct dose needed of the blood thinner Warfarin. Genetic tests of tumors prior to treatment can give women with breast cancer a 34% reduction in chemotherapy use.
As with all medicinal advances, there are ethical and security concerns that need to be addressed. Privacy concerns, anonymity, authorized access and database security are all potential concerns that must be addressed as personalized medicine moves forward.
The global bioinformatics market was pegged at $4.2 billion in 2014, but by 2020, that amount could balloon to around $13.3 billion. Increase in research investment during the past years have exceeded expectations and could continue to rise as precision medicine becomes more and more mainstream. Genetic counselors are trained to assess a person’s genetic predisposition for disease and heritable conditions and are tasked with educating individuals and health care providers on genetics. Genetic counseling is one of the fastest growing occupations with a 41% increase expected between 2012 and 2020. Bioinformatics scientists can apply their specialized research skills to aid pharmaceutical, biotech and research organizations in testing, designing and researching advances in precision medicine. The future of personalized medicine opens up lucrative career opportunities for researchers and genetic counselors, with genetic counselors having a per year median pay of $56,800 in 2012 and bioinformatics scientists earning a per year median pay of $74,720 in 2014. The demand for bioinformatics scientists and genetic counselors can be expected to increase as personalized medicine becomes the next research
impetus and as more and more real world applications become accessible to the general populace. Personalized medicine is here to stay and it is the next step in the evolution of medicine.
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