- Personalized (or precision) medicine is a brand-new, revolutionized version of medicine. It studies the components that make up a person, such as their genes and proteins.
- It treats each patient individually, tailoring the proper medicine and treatment to their genetic makeup. This approach helps eliminate many common side effects and improve health outcomes compared to traditional therapies.
- Precision medicine uses health information to give individualized treatments to patients with identifiable diseases through genetic testing.
- Proteomics, genomics, and genetics enabled by digital technology are driving personalized medicine.
While the idea of patient-centric, personalized medicine may seem new, the premise is actually quite old. In fact, even Hippocrates recognized that every single person is different. This ancient doctor, often referred to as “The Father of Western Medicine,” said, “Different patients require different treatment” more than 24 centuries ago.
However, today this statement has never been more true than ever. The advent of modern technology—namely, the ability to measure, record, and analyze a patient’s genetic and biographical information—has changed how we understand the human body. As a result, we are now armed with the ability to create therapies tailored specifically for each patient.
In this guide, we’ll discuss what precision medicine is, what technologies are helping to advance this field, and why it’s more important than ever to focus on personalized medical treatment.
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What Is Personalized Medicine?
Precision medicine is a term used to describe the application of patient-specific treatment and diagnostic measures. Though it sounds like an all-encompassing term, precision medicine is actually a subcategory of digital healthcare.
Precision medicine essentially uses the patient’s existing medical data to create new therapies and diagnostic tests that will be more effective for that specific person. Doctors conduct genetic testing and analyze medical to make a tailored treatment.
It is actually the goal of precision medicine: to create customized, patient-centric medical treatments and diagnostic tests.
In other words, the doctor can look at a patient’s genomic data, genetic relations to other family members, and medical information such as previous conditions and diagnoses to develop a more proper treatment for that particular person. The personalized medicine approach treats cancers, infections, diabetes, and even cosmetic surgery.
For example, suppose a patient presents with atrial fibrillation (an abnormal heart rate that causes irregular beats and can lead to heart failure). In that case, a doctor may perform genetic testing on that specific patient to determine whether or not the patient is predisposed to this condition. If the therapist discovers that the patient is predisposed, they can prescribe an anticoagulant medication to treat the A-Fib before it becomes life-threatening.
With the implementation of precision medicine, researchers can target what is beneficial for an individual patient with their genetic makeup and effectively adjust treatment. The United States National Institutes of Health (NIH) has invested over $200 million in the Precision Medicine Initiative (PMI).
The PMI is a large-scale research effort focusing on improving health care through genomics and digital health. The goal of PMI is to enhance the practice of medicine by providing patients with more effective, individualized treatments.
The Benefits of Precision Medicine for Doctors and Patients
Precision medicine has been the holy grail of medical research for some time. Still, it is only now that we can develop treatments and diagnostic tools specifically tailored to each individual patient.
But what makes this medical field so effective? Here are some of the many ways precision medicine is changing treatments and diagnostic measures:
- Encourage prevention through the early detection of diseases by allowing healthcare professionals to access a patient’s genealogy and environment.
- Promote more successful long-term treatments by treating individual variations in biochemistry and physiology.
- Ensure greater medical accuracy by testing for 100 million different things that cause disease.
- Patients and doctors make more informed decisions by enhancing their understanding of genetic, biographical, and environmental data.
- Preserve human life by providing treatment for cancer mutations.
- Enhance the doctor-patient relationship by informing both parties through digital health technology and individualized testing.
- Reduce costs associated with the treatment of disease through improved prediction, diagnosis, and monitoring.
But most importantly, personalized medicine improves patient outcomes by allowing doctors to diagnose and treat each patient individually correctly.
Note that precision medicine does not treat or cure diseases; rather, it enhances how effective a patient’s current medical treatment or diagnostic measures are. Thus, every person responds to treatment differently.
What Are еhe Key Elements of Precision Medicine?
Precision medicine generally focuses on the following:
- The patient’s genetic history.
- The analysis of the patient’s medical information.
- The diagnosis of their health problems.
Patient Genetic History
First, genetic history can help identify the individual’s predisposition to certain diseases. This approach means that doctors will know if a patient is more susceptible to certain illnesses, such as asthma and diabetes. Moreover, doctors can use patient genetic information to determine the benefits of more than one type of treatment for a particular disease.
It’s worth noting that the patient’s genetic history is not necessarily a cause for a disease. For example, being predisposed to A-Fib does not mean the patient will develop it. Still, this information helps understand how the patient may respond to treatment.
Medical Diagnostic Information
Second, medical diagnostic information includes the patient’s current physical and psychological conditions, lifestyle, and family history. This information can help doctors identify the patient’s specific needs, such as a diet or exercise plan.
For example, a doctor might identify that a patient has high blood pressure. In that case, the doctor may prescribe diet and exercise changes as part of the personalized treatment regimen.
Patient Health Problem Diagnosis
Finally, the diagnosis is the physiological or psychological state of an individual. It includes using genetic, biographical, and medical information to predict how a patient might respond to specific care.
At the end of the day, all diseases are simply symptomatic manifestations of a patient’s genetic disposition, medical condition, and lifestyle. Consequently, we need to diagnose and treat every patient individually.
Could Precision Medicine Eliminate Diseases?
Precision medicine is not a cure for a disease but it can prevent certain illnesses and make the patient as healthy as possible.
Just like cutting the side of a cake to reveal the center, precision medicine can give us a better understanding of how people respond to treatments. This prediction can allow doctors to offer personalized treatment plans that work best for a particular patient. But, again, precision medicine does not cure diseases.
In other words, precision medicine aims to treat the individual, not the disease. It is about patient outcomes rather than the symptoms of a disease. This approach can reduce the frequency of medical treatment and follow-up visits, thereby reducing medical costs.
For example, a cancer patient might receive certain drugs one way and a different way for their condition. This situation can lead to unnecessary costs and adverse health outcomes. However, the doctor can understand the patient’s genetic variation with precision medicine. This will aid in the treatment process and help determine which medications will cause less or more harm to a particular human body.
In fact, precision medicine is so effective that it could potentially eliminate diseases. This idea seems excessively ambitious. But consider that we have already eradicated smallpox, a deadly disease that killed millions in the middle of the 20th century. The poliomyelitis virus is gone now, too, thanks to the development of the polio vaccine.
The adoption of precision medicine may allow us to remove other diseases that threaten humanity. For example, at least 100 rare genetic diseases can kill or cause severe disability in patients.
Technologies Enabling Personalized Medicine
The development of precision medicine is made possible by several technological advancements.
For one, bioinformatics is the field of study that analyzes the structure and function of biological systems. The applications of bioinformatics allow medics to interpret complex biological data.
For instance, doctors can use bioinformatics to differentiate a patient’s cancer from a benign tumor. This information will help narrow down the search for individualized treatment options. Likewise, bioinformatics can also predict which drugs will work best for a particular patient.
Second, genomics is the field of study that analyzes the DNA sequences of organisms and their related proteins. It includes more than 160,000 human genes. Genomics also includes similar technologies for cells and organisms. For instance, genomics is used to produce transgenic animals (those that have been genetically altered).
For example, researchers have developed transgenic mice with three genes for the influenza A (H1N1) virus. This new mouse is more resistant to the virus than the traditional mice. It is also easier to get data from these mice than from human trials.
Third, digital technology, including geolocation, connectivity, mobile apps, video streaming, cloud, and much more, is driving any emerging sector, such as personalized medicine. These technologies allow caregivers to deliver customized treatments anywhere, anytime.
Besides, it is only possible to do medical research and development with computers, the Internet, Big data, and AI technologies, including deep learning, predictive analytics, virtual agents, and more.
Precision medicine is currently being used to identify potential life-saving drugs. Previously, no one thought to treat cancer patients based on their genetic makeup. But thanks to precision medicine, doctors can now determine which drugs will slow down or stop a patient’s cancer progression.
Questions and Answers about Personalized Medicine
Precision medicine is going to dramatically change the way we diagnose, treat, and develop treatments for a range of diseases. However, it is about more than just doing more for fewer patients. With precision medicine, we can find better ways to treat diseases widespread in modern society.
“Precision medicine” involves genetic testing and analysis for various diseases, not just cancer and COVID-19. This type of medicine aims to help doctors develop treatment and prevention plans that are as patient-centric and personalized as possible.