Ever since the Human Genome Project published findings in 2001, I’ve been wondering where this roadmap will lead us. The project was an international, collaborative program with a big goal of complete mapping and understanding of all the genes of human beings. All of our genes together are called our “genome.”
The group found that we have 20,500 genes and which mapped out detailed instructions for the development and function of a human being.
Dr. Frances Collins, the director of the project, noted that the genome could be thought of in terms of a book with multiple uses: “It’s a history book – a narrative of the journey of our species through time. It’s a shop manual, with an incredibly detailed blueprint for building every human cell. And it’s a transformative textbook of medicine, with insights that will give health care providers immense new powers to treat, prevent and cure disease.”
Over the past dozen years, more and more clinical uses of the information are being discovered. A few examples:
We’ve gone from chromosomal analysis to genetic and genomic testing that will help families more fully understand and nurture their special needs children.
We can analyze whether certain medications will provide the necessary protection for cardiac patients.
Last year, Angelina Jolie underwent a prophylactic double mastectomy since she was a carrier of BRAC1. Her mother died from breast cancer. This particular gene that conferred a 69% risk of Angelina developing breast cancer and a 25% chance for ovarian cancer.
Knowing more about our DNA can help us make decisions. It can provide an approach to disease that is tailored for the individual rather that “one-size-fits-all.”
Some call this “personalized medicine.” Dr. Lee Hood of Seattle, Washington, takes this definition further, calling it P4 Medicine: predictive, preventive, personalized and participatory.
He states “The convergence of systems biology, the digital revolution and consumer-driven healthcare is transforming medicine from its current reactive mode, which is focused on treating disease, to a P4 Medicine mode.”
“P4 Medicine will improve the quality of care delivered to patients through better diagnoses and targeted therapies. These advances facilitate new forms of active participation by patients and consumers in the collection of personal health data that will accelerate discovery science. Soon a virtual data cloud of billions of health-relevant data points will surround each individual. Through P4 Medicine, we will be able to reduce this complex data to simple hypotheses about how to optimize wellness and minimize disease for each individual.”
While all of this fascinates me, I think we can take participatory to a whole new level. While DNA is an instruction manual, the story is far from black and white when we take into account epigenetics.
Epigenetics literally means “above” or “on top of” genetics. It refers to external modifications to DNA that turn genes “on” or “off.” These modifications do not change the DNA sequence, but instead, they affect how cells “read” genes and how proteins are expressed.
Some scientists feel that what we eat, how we move and what we think exerts between 50-80% of the influence of over which genes and how genes are expressed. Wow… we have lots of responsibility for directing our DNA and designing our best destiny, and living our ideal life!
~ Dr. Sue
P.S. How do you optimize your destiny by designing your ideal lifestyle?