It takes a long time and a lot of work to get important discoveries like genomics from the laboratory to practice in the medical field, and especially so in regard to creating drugs. It was, however, noted in a Yahoo! Health article, “Major Advances Predicted for Health and Medicine in 2011,” that genomics may soon become more affordable, making it easier to find already approved treatments that will work for you and that could also detect disease earlier.
So What’s a Genome?
Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) is the chemical compound that contains the instructions needed to develop and direct the activities of nearly all living organisms. An organism's complete set of DNA is called its genome—basically the biological road map of who you are. The Human Genome Project, led by the National Institutes of Health and the National Human Genome Research Institute, originally completed a human genome sample constructed in April of 2003 from nearly 100 blood samples donated blindly. This high-quality data is available in public databases for conducting biomedical studies--for instance, in studying genetic variations that increase the risk of cancer.
What Could this Mean for Medicine and Health?
It originally cost about $3 billion dollars to sequence a human genome a decade ago. A year ago, it cost roughly $10,000. That price is expected to again drop, and soon it may cost around $4,000. This drop in the cost to sequence an entire human genome may allow more medical advances. According to a doctor in the field quoted in the Yahoo! Health article, genome research is exploding.
Adding to that, the “Steve Jobs of DNA Sequencing,” Dr. Jonathan M. Rothberg, wants to “do for DNA sequencing what Steve Jobs did for computers.” As explained in a New York Times article published in early January, 2011, Rothberg, the founder of Ion Torrent, recently began selling a machine priced at around $50,000 called the Personal Genome Machine. According to the article, this could, “expand the use of DNA sequencing from specialized centers to smaller university and industrial labs, and into hospitals and doctors’ offices, helping make DNA sequencing a standard part of medical practice.”
What it could do for you?
Knowing your genome sequence could predict if a particular drug will work for you or not based on how it affected others with similar genes. According to the Yahoo! Health article, “Genotyping has found mutations that determine a person’s response to malaria drugs, blood thinners, and breast cancer therapy.” It not only could help make your treatment for a particular condition more effective, it could save a lot of money in searching for one that is right for you. This is known as pharmacogenomics, and in wider use will change the way that health care is provided. It could create more proactive (preventative) medicine as opposed to reactive as is currently more common.
Genomics also can help us understand cancer better. The technology used in studying cancer is getting cheaper and faster. Researchers already can pinpoint mutations in cells and soon could be used in application on a wider scale. Mutations can indicate what’s driving a disease, and could help make treatment more targeted and effective.
Christine Jeffries is a writer/editor for work and at heart, and lives in a home of testosterone with her husband and two sons. She started a women’s group, The Wo-Hoo! Society, in the interests of friendship, networking, and philanthropy. Christine is interested in women’s health and promoting strong women.