Precision Medicine

Right now, most medical treatments are designed for the average patient. Precision medicine, on the other hand, matches each patient with the treatment that will work best for them. Also called personalized medicine or individualized medicine, precision medicine takes individual variation into account: variation in our genes, environment, lifestyle, and even in the microscopic organisms that are living inside of us.

At the center of precision medicine are efforts to understand how variations in our genes influence our health. Just like genetic variations contribute to physical characteristics like height and hair color, they also influence our likelihood of getting certain diseases. Some genetic variations protect us from disease, and some make us more susceptible.

Genetic variations also influence how we respond to medications and other interventions. For instance, it is crucial to know a person's blood type before giving them a transfusion. And understanding individual variations in the enzymes that process drugs can help a doctor prescribe the right dose of the right medication.

But as anyone who knows identical twins can tell you, we are more than a collection of genes. Factors from the environment—including our physical surroundings, our diet, and our lifestyle—also influence our health. For example, even if someone inherits genetic variations that make them susceptible to skin cancer, they can decrease their chances of getting cancer by protecting themselves from the sun. Precision medicine involves understanding how factors from the environment interact with genetic variations to influence health. When combined with information about a person's environment, genetic information becomes even more powerful.


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