Personalised medicine, which uses information encoded in DNA to customize health care, promises to replace traditional trial-and-error approaches to healthcare with targeted therapies that target any genetic abnormalities responsible for diseases.
New genetic markers and technologies enable physicians to quickly identify patients most likely to respond well or poorly to certain drugs, enabling more precise treatments with reduced side effects.
Personalized medicine (also referred to as individualized or precision medicine) is an approach to healthcare that customizes treatment plans based on genetic and clinical information for each patient. With advances in genomics technology, personalized medicine allows healthcare providers to detect variations in an individual’s DNA that could indicate any particular illness or condition.
Scientists have also discovered that certain genes influence how one responds to certain medications, enabling doctors to prescribe drugs that will work better with an individual patient’s genetic makeup.
Implementation of this approach has already proven itself effective in the field of pharmacogenomics, where scientists study how gene mutations impact individual response to drugs and their side effects. Yet expanding it across all healthcare systems remains an ambitious endeavor; various issues must first be considered, including intellectual property rights, insurance coverage/reimbursement policies and patient privacy; additionally new technologies will have to be created in order to process and analyze massive amounts of genetic data.
Scientists have used information contained within an individual’s genome to better understand how diseases develop, as well as to pinpoint specific genes which have become inactive or have undergone mutation. Knowing which ones have altered or are active helps plan treatments accordingly.
Genetic profiling can help physicians predict how medications will react with each individual body, making targeted therapies all the more effective in treating rare or hard-to-treat conditions. By targeting specific mutations or biomarkers that will best treat each condition, this precision medicine approach allows clinicians to pinpoint treatments tailored specifically for that patient.
Researchers are developing gene therapy techniques as an adjunct to targeted medicines. These technologies facilitate the introduction of healthy genes into cells in order to replace those which have become defective due to disease or age. The first successful gene therapy treatment occurred in the early 2000s when scientists equipped tumor-fighting T cells with healthy genes before infusing them back into patients; these T cells soon began killing cancerous cells and put patients into remission; unfortunately however, due to viral vector use which activated an oncogene and led to leukemia outbreaks this treatment was quickly stopped when discovered that activated an oncogene leading to leukemia outbreaks as a result.
Bioinformatics tools provide scientists with a means of making sense of the vast amounts of information gleaned from living things today, from DNA sequencing and genome assembly, protein identification, gene expression analysis, drug interaction prediction effects, etc. Bioinformatics is opening up exciting new avenues in personalized medicine as well as beyond.
Bioinformatics tools primarily serve to organize and manage biological data in an easily accessible format, making retrieval, use and analysis simpler. Furthermore, many tools also aid with data visualization, statistical analysis and image processing.
Other bioinformatics tools offer scientists important functions, including sequence alignment. This allows scientists to quickly compare and contrast nucleotide or protein sequences and quickly identify regions with similar properties in order to develop drugs or understand evolutionary relationships between organisms. Furthermore, useful bioinformatics tools include preprocessing NGS data, providing amplicon metagenomics analysis, creating CRISPR design sites, and aiding genomic assembly.
Scientists use CRISPR-Cas9 to make specific alterations in cells and organisms’ DNA, such as replacing disease-causing genes with healthy ones. It has proven more powerful, efficient, and accurate than earlier gene-editing techniques.
Last year, Mapara initiated one of the earliest clinical trials using CRISPR technology to treat an inherited disorder such as sickle cell disease or beta thalassemia by replacing mutant forms of genes with correct sequences.
CRISPR can also be used to treat infectious diseases, including HIV and hepatitis, by targeting only disease-causing bacteria without harming beneficial ones. CRISPR technology has already been applied to genetically modify livestock to produce more muscle and wool to feed an expanding world population.
CRISPR innovations could provide tremendous public health advantages, yet must be tailored appropriately to minority populations who bear the greatest disease burdens in America. Unfortunately, much of genomics research and therapies designed with Eurocentric genomes as the standard are less effective or even increase risks among patients of minority ancestry.