Whole genome sequencing may improve medical care

Melbourne: Doctors have put forward plans to sequence the full genetic code of thousands of people in a landmark project to personalise their medical care.

Volunteers will have all 6 billion letters of their genome read, stored and linked to their medical records to help doctors prescribe more effective drugs and other therapies, a newspaper reported.

The Mayo Clinic in the US will launch the pilot study early next year as part of an ambitious move that puts modern genetics at the centre of patient care.

The trial reflects a trend in medicine to use genetic information to identify patients who will benefit most from a drug and those who will respond better to an alternative. Medical professionals from Australia are watching the developments with interest.
“Australia’s National Health and Medical Research Council is fully aware of these international developments, and the Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing is following the developments with interest,” a Health Department spokeswoman said.

The wealth of information locked up in the human genome can help doctors advise patients on lifestyle changes to stave off diseases they are at risk of developing.

The Mayo clinic trial goes further by giving doctors all the genetic information they need to choose drugs that will work best for a particular patient while minimising side effects.

Dr Gianrico Farrugia, the director of the Centre for Individualised Medicine at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, said the cost of sequencing a person``s whole genome - some 23,000 genes - had fallen so rapidly that it was now comparable to the price of a single gene test.

“We are convinced that whole genome sequencing is going to radically change the way we practise medicine,” Farrugia said.


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