The diseases predictive and personalised medicine will send into the past
Personalised medicine is still a work in progress. As we learn more about how genes and cells work together, personalised medicine will be shaped and fine-tuned so that it can be used by all doctors. Eventually each person’s illness should be treatable on an individual level. Even now, though, genetic tests can be used to predict and treat several conditions and situations:
The screening of newborn infants is one of the most important areas of current genetic testing. It is possible to test newborns for fatal genetic diseases such as phenylketonuria and congenital hypothyroidism; the fetus or embryo can even be tested before it is born. Risk screening for cancer (as in the case of Angelia Jolie) is fairly commonplace as is testing to see whether parents-to-be are carriers of a genetic disease. If a genetic condition (such as spinal muscular atrophy, cystic fibrosis and Fragile X Syndrome) runs in a family then carrier testing can let couples know whether their children would be at risk of having the disease. Personalised medicine has a long history of use in treating various cancers (including breast, ovarian, prostrate, lung, colon, etc); a genetic test of the cancer can guide doctors towards the best course of action to take. Increasingly, doctors can use genetic information to determine how well certain drugs will work in an individual – an example being the use of warfarin as a ‘blood thinning’ drug: if the genes CYP2C9 and VKORC1 are detected in the person’s genome then the drug will be ineffective. Various other drugs have been screened in this way, including Trastuzumab (for breast cancer), cetuximab (for colorectal, head and neck cancer) and gefitinib (for lung cancer). Areas of predictive and personalised medicine being researched right now include HIV detection, cardiovasvular diseases and, most interestingly, neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinsons, HIV-induced dementia, multiple sclerosis and schizophrenia.