Personalized medicine, which involves tailoring health care to each person’s unique genetic makeup, has the potential to transform how we diagnose, prevent and treat disease. After all, no two people are alike. Mapping a person’s unique susceptibility to disease and targeting the right treatment has deservedly been welcomed as a new power to heal.
The human genome, a complete set of human DNA, was identified and mapped a decade ago. But genomic science remains in its infancy. According to Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health, “It is fair to say that the Human Genome Project has not yet directly affected the health care of most individuals.”
It’s not that there haven’t been tremendous breakthroughs. It’s just that the gap between science and its ability to benefit most patients remains wide. This is mainly because we don’t yet fully understand the complex pathways involved in common chronic diseases.
I am part of a research team that has taken on the ambitious goal of narrowing this gap. New technologies are allowing us to probe DNA, RNA, proteins and gut bacteria in a way that will change our understanding of health and disease. Our hope is to discover novel biological markers that can be used to diagnose and treat common chronic conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, diabetes and cancer.