Personalized Genetics: Are we ready?

As me and others have already stated for several times before, we are not. It was so good to read the opinion of Joel Burrill as I felt like we’re on the right way. Some excerpts from the interview made by Wired:

Currently there are some major barriers that need attention before companies like 23andMe will be incredibly successful. An incredibly steep barrier that needs immediate attention is the education of doctors. For doctors to actually use this type of information they need to understand the concepts and the principles that are at the heart of this type of technology, but currently the amount of education they receive in medical school is slim to none.

As for the nature of predictive medicine and companies that will offer predictive tests, I think it is a good idea, but there is going to be a gap between the patient and the doctor if these companies are marketed directly to the patient. If they are marketed to the patient, then the doctor will 1) have no knowledge of the outcome of the test, 2) have no basis to make any decisions off of other than the word of the patient and 3) no medical basis for prescribing medication.

In Hungary, medical education consists of 6 years and we have to study genetics for only 6 months (!). While the majority of the medical conditions we learn about have genetic basis, they try to introduce us to the world of genetics and genomics in just 6 months… How is the genetic education at your university or your clinic?

One of the best genetic bloggers out there these days is probably Daniel Macarthur at Genetic Future, who always comes up with some interesting posts and raises some important points:

However, the Navigenics model is also deeply regressive:… Where 23andMe talks about guiding customers through their own journey of genetic discovery, Navigenics appears to be more about giving clients the information that Navigenics thinks is medically relevant, and protecting them from all the non-essential details that might overwhelm or confuse them.

Los Angeles Times published this fascinating article, Genome scans go deep into your DNA:

Some researchers say it’s unclear whether people will understand the genetic risk data and what they will do with it. Is this just a bit of harmless fun? Will it improve long-term health outcomes? Or will hypochondriacal patients march to their doctors and demand truckloads of unnecessary tests, harming themselves and the healthcare bottom line — while others incorrectly see their results as destiny and adopt worse lifestyle habits?

At last, but not least, have you recognized that the genome of Watson was sequenced at high speed? As a commenter expressed, I guess this DNA sequencing paper would be rejected right away by Nature if it is not on DNA of James Watson. However, in today’s science, it is not the KNOWLEDGE but the SUBJECT that matters most in weighing the “significance” of a manuscript for publication.

So some major points for today:

  • education of medical professionals about personalized genetics should get a much bigger attention
  • closing the gap between patients and doctors in the aspect of analyzing genetic data is becoming important
  • have to be cautious with these new genetic companies and we should avoid “overhyping” their importance
  • papers should focus on the scientific value of the articles as selling the papers should not be the #1 objective for them

Stay tuned for more about individualized genetics.