Personalized Medicine: A Vision for a Positive Effect on Healthcare
Personalized medicine has a vision to avoid a costly and prolonged trial and error approach that can leave the patient anguishing unnecessarily from side effects, while simultaneously losing precious time in the fight against the disease. As evidence of the benefits of personalized medicine continue to grow, a network of laws, policy, education, and clinical information is building around personalized medicine to support its use in the medical community.
Personalized medicine introduces new treatment protocols, which create the ability to use molecular tracking elements that signal the risk of disease on a genetic level. This alerts the medical community to its presence before clinical indications and symptoms appear. This healthcare strategy is focused on preventive medicine and intervention, rather than a reaction to highly developed stages of disease. Such a strategy intends to delay disease onset and help the patient avoid mounting healthcare costs.
The cost of healthcare in the United States is on an upward climb, which is highly unsustainable. Proponents of personalized medicine believe that by following the practice of personalized medicine and working it into the existing healthcare system, we as a nation can resolve many of the inefficiencies inherit therein. These inefficiencies, such as a dosing system based on trial and error, severe reactions to a drugs, reactive treatment, and poorly timed diagnoses are contributing to mounting healthcare costs.
There are specific examples that the pharmacogenic system of personalized medicine is generating tangible results. Authors of various studies exploring potential healthcare cost savings from using genetic testing estimated that the use of a genetic test to properly dose various pharmaceuticals could reduce overall healthcare costs.
Personalized Medicine Influencing Large Scale Studies
The substantiation of the benefits of personalized medicine is accumulating rapidly, and the real world applications of this knowledge are beginning to take root as well. Three areas of technology are key to making personalized medicine a presence in our healthcare system. New tools to decode the human genome, large-scale studies that help link genetic variation to disease, and a healthcare information technology system that supports the integration of clinical data in addition to the research is spawned from, as well as the ability of physicians to track every aspect of patient care according to genetic and molecular profiles to facilitate tailoring of treatment.
In addition, technological advancements have enabled personalized medicine to be brought to the public through the use of personal genetic testing. The systems for sequencing DNA or checking for genetic variation are essential to progress in both research and doctor to patient applications. DNA microscopes borrow technology from circuit manufacturing, helping scientists detect hundreds of thousands of genetic variations on a single chip. They are instrumental in identifying which variations are associated with any given disease.
In the last five years, the number of changes in single DNA chemical building blocks of the genome, which can be examined in a 1 cm chip increased from 250,000 to 920,000. It is estimated that there are millions such variations in the human genome. There are many subfields that are being employed as possible tools in the study of personalized medicine. Genomics and Transcriptomics offer information on genetic variation as well as the level of gene expression. Metabolomics examines the small molecules that are the byproducts of chemical reactions within the human body. Proteomics examines the entire formation of proteins made by cells. These tools are very important because what was once thought to be a single disease characterized by a common set of physical signs, for instance, asthma or breast cancer and symptoms may be several distinct conditions, or it may be a single disease with a variety of handling options.
The Future of Personalized Medicine
Those in favor of personalized medicine see a future in which each person, on the day of their birth, is provided with his full genomic sequence to place into a personal medical record. That information from a personal genome would then be used to allow physicians to develop a more proactive healthcare approach based on the patient’s susceptibility to different diseases. The reactions to pharmaceuticals and reactions to different types of medicine would be assisted with that information as well. Advances in genomic sequencing are clearly on an exponential curve, and many scientists believe that with the help of venture capital we will see a dollar amount applied on a genome in the coming years.
Within the past few years, a growing number of businesses have begun to offer direct to consumer genetic tests. These tests are designed to help individuals better understand their genetic predisposition for a given health condition. As supporting technology has become less exclusive, genomics companies have started on the track to offer consumers whole genome scanning and associated information on individual genetic predisposition for a wide-ranging list of conditions concurrently.
In the modern conception of personalized medicine, the tools provided to the physician are more precise, probing not just the obvious, such as a tumor on a mammogram or cells under a microscope, but the very molecular makeup of each patient. By investigating this genetic mapping, medical professionals are then able to profile patients, and use the found information to plan out a course of treatment that is much more in step with the way their individual body works.