Geneticists have long had visions of a future in which medicine would be customized based on each individual's genetic makeup. But the reality of tailoring treatment based on genetic testing has been a complex, expensive and ethically grey area, and science, technology and society have yet to catch up. However, now it feels like that vision is within reach. In the last year, the terms precision medicine and personalized medicine have received a lot of press – most notably with President Obama's launch of the Precision Medicine Initiative. Some studies have shown that the public is also more interested in understanding their genomic health risks.
As mentioned last week in Business Insider, there are five main reasons precision medicine has reached a turning point:
1. The human genome is better understood than ever. 2. Electronic medical records allow researchers access to huge data pools. 3. Wearables (think Fitbit) and similar technology are simplifying individual data collection. 4. Digital tech tools are helping researchers store and make sense of big data. 5. People are more willing than ever to take part in these studies.
We can use this technology to improve treatment of many inherited diseases, many common conditions (think diabetes and heart disease), and certainly to determine which medications will be most effective in which people. There is no denying the personalized medicine will touch all areas of medicine in the future.
Photo by Didriks, via Flickr