DNA Advances Mean Biotech Advances


It’s hard to believe but it was only 10 years ago last month that leading scientific journals published the results of the Human Genome Sequence, the encyclopedia of our genetic content.

(Backing up for a minute, genes — which number 30,000-plus — are made up of DNA, and DNA is the hereditary material that determines an organism’s distinct characteristics. Meanwhile, a genome sequence is the order of DNA bases in a genome — it’s something like a very long string of letters in a mysterious language.)

As this vast amount of new genetic information has become available, the field of medical Biotechnology — which we looked at in this week’s ATETV Episode — has kept pace. Here are some of the many ways that Biotech is using this new information:

Personalized medicine. Currently, the practice of medicine is based on standards of care that are determined by gathering information across large groups of people. Personalized medicine is a new concept that proposes to manage a patient’s disease based on the individual’s specific characteristics, including age, gender, height, weight, environment and genetics. Genetic advances is beginning to allow the development of genomic personalized medicine — medical care based on a patient’s genotype or gene profile.

Meanwhile, a specialty known as Pharmacogenomics takes advantage of the fact that individuals have unique genomes and works to identify specific drugs and doses to work optimally for each person. By understanding a person’s genetic makeup, a physician can better prescribe drugs and doses. Both Pharmacogenomics and personalized medicine rely on advances in DNA technology

Genetic testing. The Biotech industry continues to develop improved genetic tests, and the discovery of single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) was key. When a SNP occurs in a gene sequence that encodes for a specific protein, it might change that protein and cause disease or increase a person’s susceptablity to disease, making genetic tests more accurate.

Check out Bio-Link for more background on the Biotech field, and the medical career opportunities offered in this rapidly growing area!

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