New breakthroughs and advancing technologies within Genomics are sparking global interest, especially within healthcare. Fuelled by the remarkable successes so far, genomics brings promising expectations for the future!
What is Genomics?
Genomics is a branch of molecular biology that focuses on studying an organism’s entire DNA structure. It looks at the make-up of genes, their mapping and structure.
At the core of genomics is DNA sequencing, which allows scientists to read and interpret the genetic code. By mapping out the arrangement of nucleotide bases (adenine, thymine, cytosine, and guanine), researchers can identify genes and study their functions.
Major scientific breakthrough
The Human Genome Project, completed in 2003, was a major breakthrough that mapped and sequenced the entire human genome. Scientists discovered 3.2 billion base pairs that make up the human genome. This monumental achievement has provided a foundation for understanding human genetics, which is widely used today and has driven scientific discovery forwards.
How does Genomics help us?
Genomics, and specifically completing the Human Genome Project, has paved the way for:
Genomics research has our increased knowledge and understanding of the genetic basis of diseases. This is powerful, as it helps shape our understanding of individual diseases and potential treatments.
Disease detection and prevention
Genetic testing can reveal predispositions to certain diseases based on genetic risk factors. Identifying this early, before symptoms manifest, can lead to successful treatment. An early awareness allows at risk people to modify their lifestyle and will empower them on their recovery journey.
Develop targeted drugs
A deeper understanding of the genetic makeup of diseases, can be used to develop targeted drugs to help fight specific diseases. With a focus on medication that minimises risks and adverse side effects.
Genomic medicine has already made significant strides in the diagnosis and treatment of various conditions, including cancer, cardiovascular diseases and rare genetic disorders.
Understanding Genomics can go one step further than developing drugs targeting specific diseases. It can also be used to create individualised treatment, by creating medicine specifically tailored to the individual’s genetic information.
This shift away from a one-size-fits-all approach has the potential to significantly improve treatment outcomes and reduce adverse reactions. As health care professionals can predict potential drug responses based on specific genetic profiles.
Understanding our heritage
Genomics can help us understand who we are. Our ancestors, our heritage and the unique characteristics, physical traits and predispositions that makes each person distinct.
Ancestry tests are becoming increasingly common, often taken out of curiosity to discover an individual's genetic lines that span centuries.
It is important to acknowledge that there are several ethical concerns surrounding genomics. Privacy, data protection and consent all to be taken into consideration to ensure the responsible and ethical use of genomic data.
As technology continues to advance there will be an ever growing concern to safeguard people against genetic discrimination, protecting privacy and gaining consent on data sharing initiatives.
There are additional concerns that if genomic results are not handled sensitivity, people could be unfairly discriminated against. This needs to be protected against in employment, as if employers become aware of predispositions to certain diseases it could potentially be used for the basis of firing, or not hiring initially. Stigmas could also continue into education, with fears of social exclusion, as well as potentially resulting in higher health and life insurance premiums.
The Soumac View
For us, the benefits of genomics are clear. We are thrilled that genomic medicine has already helped to diagnose and treat various conditions, including cancer and rare genetic disorders.
With ongoing advancements in technology, including the emergence of gene-editing techniques like CRISPR-Cas9, we expect gene therapies to become more precise and targeted, offering new hope for treating previously untreatable genetic conditions.
As DNA sequencing technologies are becoming faster and more affordable, we foresee it becoming more accessible and widely used to understand and tackle disease. However,
ethical concerns will need to be fully addressed first and genetic issues will need to be handled sensitively.
We are excited to see the pivotal role genomics will play in advancing healthcare and the innovative therapies that will emerge to treat genetic conditions in the future.
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