First Person in the World Prescribed Medicine Based on Genome Analysis

by jeeg 8. May 2010 19:15

Do you want to know what your genetic predilection is to various diseases that may kill you?

A healthy 40 year-old professor of bioengineering at Stanford School of Medicine recently had his entire genome analyzed for approximately $50,000. In an attempt to determine what diseases he may genetically be at risk for as well as those he is unlikely to contract, Stephen Quake engaged researchers to assess the gene variants he carried to calculate his overall risk and compare it to the average risk for men of his age.

Practicing the ultimate in preventive medicine, Quake then started treatment with a statin to reduce cholesterol after being warned that he was at increased risk of a heart attack.

This raises many serious ethical and practical questions about how much people really want to know about future life-threatening conditions they may or may not at some point suffer from. As we are all organic creatures whose physical, psychological and emotional components are integrally interconnected, what effect might such information have on the human psyche in concert with emotions in possibly creating the ideal conditions for a self-fulfilling prophecy? Medical journals are filled with stories of patients diagnosed with incurable conditions who defied all odds by the force of their will and positive mindset. Could informing someone that they are genetically predisposed to contracting various life-threatening conditions amount to a death sentence?

On the other hand, armed with such information, people could receive medical treatment early on that may prolong or even save their lives. Will this possibility improve the efficiency of medicine and thus lower costs? What about the costs of these genomic analyses?

As a society we need to begin a discussion of these issues. Let’s start with this blog post; add your thoughts and questions and we’ll see where the zeitgeist takes us.

Kathy Sloan


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