The Irresistable Rise of Genomic Medicine


Most of us don't see it happening yet, but exciting changes in medical care are bubbling beneath the surface.

Genomic medicine will one day provide people with unique treatment based entirely on their unique genomes.

Many major medical schools and hospitals already possess centers for genomic medicine. They've begun sequencing the genomes of patients and in the case of cancer, their tumors, in order to map out a treatment plan. This is possible because sequencing a human genome costs just two to four thousand dollars and takes one to three days.

Consider that the first human genome sequence had cost one billion dollars and eight years to complete. We now have more than twenty-five hundred human genomes sequenced representing 26 distinct human populations. So far, just these sequences show 100 million variations proving just how unique that makes each of us and thus, our disease.

In the case of cancer genomics, determining the DNA sequence of tumor cells may identify the cause and type of the cancer. Then the doctor could use the patient's genome to determine which drugs are more effective. This is called pharmacogenomics.

Genomic medicine is also allowing new non-invasive prenatal diagnosis. Scientists can sequence a fetus's genome from its DNA in the mother's blood, rather than using more invasive methods which are a risk to the baby.

While it appears genomic medicine is inevitable, one big challenge is insurance companies. How they treat these new advances could influence the medicine of the future.