What is personalized medicine?

People differ. The genetic difference between two random persons is approximately 1%. However, this slight difference determines all our characteristics: our looks, our behavior and even our mood.  Most importantly, it determines our predisposition to different diseases or our response to different types of treatments and drugs.

How can doctors know which treatment plan will work for each of us? Usually doctors prescribe medications according to treatment guidelines that work for the majority of people. However, for some patients, the general treatment plans may not work very well or even not work at all. This is because each person’s genome is unique and may sometimes crucially affect health and the treatment process.

This problem is being addressed by personalized or precision medicine. As we are living in the genomic era, now it is possible to sequence the genome of each individual patient and obtain his/her genetic profile. Thereafter, the doctors will be able to accurately diagnose the disease and choose the right treatment plan for each individual patient. Hence, individual approach may provide better disease prevention, more accurate diagnosis, safer drug prescriptions and more effective treatments for each patient.

Personalized medicine is now the target of medical advancements in the whole world. Everyday, new genetic tests are being developed to assess disease predisposition risks, diagnose disease and choose individualized treatment strategies. However, these diagnostic tests do not work for all the populations. The thing is: besides inter-individual genetic differences, there is also difference between populations around the world. Importantly, the diagnostic tests are designed for a certain population and take into account genetic features of that population. In other words, the tests designed for one population will not accurately diagnose individuals from other populations.

The Armenian genome project will give us an opportunity to design diagnostic tests adapted specifically for the Armenian population and increase the accuracy of diagnosis, ultimately allowing us to use the most effective disease prevention strategies and treatment plans for our population.

by Maria Nikoghosyan