Over the last few decades, scientists have made staggering progress in the study of genetics. In just a few short decades, they have made leaps and bounds in better understanding our genes and how to read them.
They are also hot on the trail of how to navigate our entire genome and determine what gene abnormalities cause hereditary conditions.
Recently, we’ve also made a huge leap from being simply able to test a blood sample for abnormal chromosomes to actually being able to:
- Map out a person’s genes
- Predict and diagnose hereditary conditions
All of this research falls under the umbrella of Genomics.
What is Genomics?
It’s a big word that may mean nothing to you now. But, once you understand its meaning, you’ll see how it affects your whole life and health.
And how it not only has brought the future of medicine to our doorstep but will change the way we live with, prevent, and treat disease.
If you break the word down, you’ll see the prefix comes from the word genome:
“genome” is a way of describing all of our genetic material.
-omic means pertaining to a comprehensive field of study. https://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/-omic
So basically, Genomic medicine is the study of our genes (DNA) and their interaction with our health. Genomics is different from genetics because genetics only looks at specific genes or groups of ‘letters’ along the DNA strand.
On the other hand, genomics studies someone’s entire genetic composition. Genomics looks at the big picture of how your genes relate and react with each other and your environment.
They also look at how they are associated with conditions that have a broader range of triggers, such as:
- Heart disease
DNA and Genomes
Your DNA contains the information needed to build your body. Your DNA makes up your genes.
These genes are located on 23 pairs of chromosomes packed into the nucleus of one of your cells. If one of your cell’s DNA is mutated, it can disrupt the body’s normal processes and lead to diseases like cancer.
How Do We Use Genomics in Medicine?
Genomics digs deep into how an individual’s biological information can be used to improve their clinical care and health outcomes. By looking at your genes, doctors can more effects very diagnose and treat conditions.
If you have a range of symptoms that are confounding your doctor and you’ve run every test, they can think of with no results, and genomic medicine can be used to get to the root of the problem.
The tests that take place during pregnancy are genomic in nature. They can check the baby’s genes to ensure that nothing is wrong with them or that they don’t have a concerning condition that the parents passed along via their family’s genetic history. This can help parents make informed choices and plans for the future.
If you have a family history of serious genetic disorders, your provider can use genomic medicine to determine whether or not you are a carrier of that condition and can pass it on to your children.
Even if you don’t have symptoms now, Genomic medicine can tell you if you are likely to develop an inherited condition later in life.
Your genetic makeup can show your susceptibility to certain illnesses, like:
- Heart disease
Knowing that you have a predisposition to these illnesses allows you to manage risk by using medicines, undergoing medical interventions, or making lifestyle changes.
The Benefits of Genomics in Medicine
Genomic medicine gives us a greater understanding of the links between biology and disease. And, this relationship reaps benefits from the personal level all the way to a worldwide level.
Genomic medicine allows doctors to diagnose and treat patients with:
- A tailored health care plan for their individual needs and risks
Access to genomic information assists doctor’s in diagnosing, managing treatments, and spotting symptoms across a broader cohort of patients.
Genomic medicine allows doctors and researchers to develop strategies to care for rising nationwide trends and particular communities and programs.
Some projects build and provide open-access databases of all known human genetic conditions. Lastly, this means if you or your child has a rare syndrome, you are more likely to find the answers and the support you need.
And, if you are worried about a hereditary tendency towards developing cancer or have a child who has learning difficulties or other developmental problems, genetic counseling can help you get the answers and solutions you need.
A genetic counseling session includes a medical examination and time exploring and mapping your family and medical history. Your doctor may also choose to run lab tests.
Expect to take some time with the doctor. Results could take weeks or months to return, depending on the rarity of the condition. Prenatal test results will be returned as soon as possible.
Emotionally prepare yourself. You could discover you or your loved one has a life-changing condition. You could also find that there is nothing to be worried about.
Either way, you will have the information you need to make the decisions necessary for you and your loved ones to thrive.
The Future of Genomic Medicine
Genomic medicine is constantly evolving. Researchers are delving into realms that they never expected to be able to have access to. Some hereditary diseases are difficult to diagnose because of the wide range of genes involved.
Scientists are actively seeking chemical or genetic ways to prevent or turn off conditions like these. By understanding our genetic code, we can better predict and manage what happens in the future.
We Want You to Live Well
So, if you or a loved one are struggling with diagnosing a condition or experiencing a range of symptoms that damage your health and livelihood, contact us for a consultation.
Our functional medicine approach doesn’t just treat symptoms and it gets to the root of the problem. Once we know what’s going on, we can work with you one step at a time to get you back to optimal health.