“We can get a pretty good idea not only what diseases you’re predisposed to, but also what subtype of disease,” Dr. Spelsberg said.
Explore This IssueMarch 2010
Computer analysis of DNA samples has increased the speed of discovery exponentially. “It used to take months to analyze one gene,” Dr. Spelsberg said. “Then it went to days. Now in one afternoon we can assay 10,000 genes. We can tell what genes are different in people with a particular disease. Computer programs can tell you exactly what pathways are involved. All this can be done in a week.”
—Thomas C. Spelsberg, PhD
Dr. Spelsberg indulged in speculation about what the future will bring. “There will be newborn and prenatal analysis for polymorphisms in major disease-related genes,” he said. “There will be lifetime preventive measures that people can take. There will be focused checkups as you age, looking for disease susceptibility. There will be improved disease detection and accurate subclassification of diseases for individualized treatment. Someday humans will be given a little flash drive at birth that will tell everything about them at the genetic level.”
And while all that may sound like science fiction, some of it is starting to happen.
“Individualized medicine programs have been ongoing at Mayo,” Dr. Spelsberg said. “There were 83 new genomic-based tests introduced at Mayo in 2008. They conducted 775,000 genomic tests. I’m not talking about the future here. These things are happening now, and much more is on the way.” ENTtoday
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