Personalized Medicine is Great for Treatment, but What About Prevention of Chronic Diseases

Being able to tailor treatment to a person’s genetic makeup is the ultimate form of curing many chronic diseases. But what about preventing them? Genomic science is still very new, and scientists have a lot to learn before they have mastered this subject. Still, there have been several developments in this field, and more is being discovered every day with thanks to some advanced technologies we now have available to us.

The problem is that although these new technologies will allow us to diagnose better and treat many patients including those who have Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, and cancer, preventing them is not so easy. This is because many diseases aren’t down to genetic causes only. Heart disease is said to be around 50 percent inherited, type 2 diabetes is around 64 percent, and Alzheimer’s is thought to be around 58 percent.  Lifestyle choices and our environment also play a part in how the information coded within our genes is translated. Chronic diseases are also more complex than others as they are influenced by thousands of genes opposed to being controlled by just a few. This makes unfolding all the possible ways in which they came interact with one another a mammoth task that would take a lifetime to complete.

While it is important to figure out the complexity of chronic disease, it’s equally important to think about prevention. Addressing factors like smoking, weight gain, poor diet, and lack of exercise are fundamental in preventing these illnesses. Statistics show that in the US, over 90 percent of type 2 diabetes cases are avoidable as well as 70 percent of both strokes and colon cancer. So, prevention is vital too. But, the problem is that even when people know their own personal genetic risk of disease, they don’t necessarily stop smoking, start exercising or change their diet.

Another area that’s exciting and shows promise is the fact that soon we’ll be able to use detailed molecular profiling to develop targeted treatments for illnesses such as diabetes, and some cancers. This kind of molecular diagnosis should significantly improve the survival rates of many. But while customizing treatments will be extremely beneficial, without being able to test targeted treatments on large groups of people, predictions will be difficult to make. Eventually, we may get custom tailored treatments through one-person trials, but there is quite a costly mountain to climb before that summit is reached.

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