With more and more discoveries in biomedicine, we now know that we can have new ways of editing genes, customizing therapies, and taming diseases. However, there is a need for some precautionary measures in the use of these new discoveries.
Therefore, there is a need for research in the future. According to a veteran journalist, Fran Smith, people should not be too edgy when it comes to finding out what certain discovery holds for the future of their health.
“You’re not safer if you don’t know,” said Smith. “And you can find out things that are very useful and that you can do something about.”
She preferred the model that has come to be known as “precision medicine.” Such a treatment approach is better compared to older medical models that tend to lump patients together and treat them for a category of illness. In this model, gene research and data analytics are used “to tailor prevention, diagnosis, and treatment to a person’s unique biochemical makeup,” Smith continues. She was of the opinion that in a few decades, the advancement of this model will “upend the way medicine traditionally has been practiced.”
Smith was enrolled at Stanford University to work on a detailed biochemical profiling study. She accumulated her experience at the university, not with needles or swabs, but with questions from a genetic counselor.
“Did I understand that DNA sequencing might produce ‘actionable’ results, such as BRCA mutations for breast and ovarian cancer, the problem that had famously spurred Angelina Jolie to undergo a preventive double mastectomy?” writes Smith. “Did I understand the test also might reveal problems I can’t do anything about, such as the APOE4 gene, which elevates the risk of Alzheimer’s? Did I want to learn all the findings?”
Not wanting to make an uncomfortable story, but as Smith puts it while waiting for the test results, “my stomach surprised me by knotting in protest.” The questions begging for answers, however, are: Would she discover that she might have the same fate as her father, who suffered a slow decline into dementia? Or she, possibly, might take after her mother, who is still waxing strong at age 94, enjoying mah-jongg and dancing along with other seniors at the senior center?
One thing that is worthy of note is that the very genetic counselor, who was asking Smith all these questions is yet to have her own genome sequenced. It is fascinating to know that she hasn’t even decided on whether to do it or not.
In reality, what should be of concern to the majority of today’s beings are the implications of several sophisticated biomedical discoveries and innovations. With more tools, we couldn’t have imagined even a decade ago, with which we can now edit our genes, predict our risk of disease, even shape the biomedical future of our children, every individual and the general public must start to reason critically about the different consequences of these innovations.
If we can take necessary precautions based on sound facts and scientific evidence, we may be on our way toward ensuring a better future for all.