Precision medicine: From one-size-fits-all to personalized healthcare

Scientist pipetteAdvances in technology are essential if precision medicine is going to become reality.

Imagine a future in which, rather than using symptoms to identify a disease, your genes, metabolism, and gut microbiome inform how your individual health is managed. This is the vision of precision medicine.

Traditional medicine uses symptoms to diagnose diseases, and drugs to treat these symptoms. But precision medicine aims to turn this concept on its head.

By identifying the factors that predispose a person to a particular disease and the molecular mechanisms that cause the condition, treatment and prevention strategies can be tailored to each individual. 

So, how do we get from traditional to precision medicine? Advances in genetics and molecular analysis techniques have been a deciding factor, as has getting patients involved with managing their own health.

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app,Carnegie Mellon University,Magee-Womens Hospital,Medical Internet Research mHealth and uHealth,neonatal death,preterm birth

Novel app developed to combat preterm birth

Maternal-fetal medicine specialists at Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC collaborated with decision scientists at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) to develop and test a personalized smartphone application designed to combat preterm birth by engaging a typically hard-to-reach population of pregnant women. The findings, reported in the Journal of Medical Internet Research mHealth and uHealth, indicate that the app was successful in providing accessible and personalized obstetrical care, designed specifically to target preterm birth risk.

Preterm birth, the leading cause of neonatal death or long-term disability, is on the rise in the United States with approximately one of every 10 births occurring prior to 37 weeks of gestation. These rates are disproportionately high among some socioeconomic groups, including African Americans and families living in poverty. These patient groups often are the hardest to reach due to limited access to and attendance at routine prenatal care.

“Mobile phone apps are a great way to engage a vulnerable population in their health care because approximately 86 percent of American adults own a mobile phone, regardless of racial and ethnic groups,” explained Tamar Krishnamurti, Ph.D., lead author and assistant research professor of engineering and public policy at CMU. “Moreover, 20 percent of all smartphone owners downloaded a pregnancy app in 2015. Although hundreds of pregnancy-related apps exist, few have been developed through a scientific process that is patient-centered and grounded in behavioral decision research.”

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CRISPR,CRISPR-Cas9,Jian-Hua Luo,MAN2A1-FER,University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine

Novel gene editing approach to cancer treatment shows promise in mice

A novel gene therapy using CRISPR genome editing technology effectively targets cancer-causing “fusion genes” and improves survival in mouse models of aggressive liver and prostate cancers, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine researchers report in a study published online in Nature Biotechnology.

“This is the first time that gene editing has been used to specifically target cancer fusion genes. It is really exciting because it lays the groundwork for what could become a totally new approach to treating cancer,” explained lead study author Jian-Hua Luo, M.D., Ph.D., professor of pathology at Pitt’s School of Medicine and director of its High Throughput Genome Center.

Fusion genes, which often are associated with cancer, form when two previously separate genes become joined together and produce an abnormal protein that can cause or promote cancer.

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"chemical imaging" system,'Volumetric' imaging method,Purdue University's Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering,stimulated Raman projection microscopy and tomography

‘Volumetric’ imaging method reveals chemical content, might lead to systems that eliminate need to draw blood for lab tests

A “chemical imaging” system that uses a special type of laser beam to penetrate deep into tissue might lead to technologies that eliminate the need to draw blood for analyses including drug testing and early detection of diseases such as cancer and diabetes.

The system, called stimulated Raman projection microscopy and tomography, makes possible “volumetric imaging” without using fluorescent dyes that might affect biological functions and hinder accuracy, said Ji-Xin Cheng, a professor in Purdue University’s Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering, Department of Chemistry and Birck Nanotechnology Center.

“Volumetric chemical imaging allows a better understanding of the chemical composition of three-dimensional complex biological systems such as cells,” he said.

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cerebral palsy,multiple sclerosis,Rady Children's Hospital,Sensor-filled glove,stroke,University of California San Diego

Sensor-filled glove could help doctors take guesswork out of physical exams

Everyone experiences stiff muscles from time to time, whether after a rigorous workout, in cold weather, or after falling asleep in an unusual position. People with cerebral palsy, stroke and multiple sclerosis, however, live with stiff muscles every single day, making everyday tasks such as extending an arm extremely difficult and painful for them. And since there isn’t a foolproof way to objectively rate muscle stiffness, these patients often receive doses of medication that are too low or too high.

Now, an interdisciplinary team of researchers at the University of California San Diego and Rady Children’s Hospital has developed new wearable sensors and robotics technology that could be used to accurately measure muscle stiffness during physical exams. “Our goal is to create a system that could augment existing medical procedures by providing a consistent, objective rating,” said Harinath Garudadri, a research scientist at the university’s Qualcomm Institute and the project’s lead investigator.

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cancer,computer-assisted music,Music therapy,personalized diagnostics,Sync Project,Wearable gadgets

Will these three innovations change your clinical practice?

Wearable gadgets, personalized diagnostics, and computer-assisted music: the world of healthcare technology aims to improve the patient experience, contribute to long-term health outcomes and, ultimately, make it easier for physicians to deliver care. What’s new and in the pipeline in 2017? Medical News Today report from the recent WIRED Health conference in London, United Kingdom.
[Physician with medical technology]
How can healthcare professionals harness the latest technological advancements to help their patients?

One of the recurring themes woven into the speakers’ sessions was placing the patient at the center of care.

Despite the rapidly advancing pace of technological innovation, many of the health problems faced by the wider population persist. In light of this, how can innovative technology be harnessed to help each patient and their individual needs?

Microlevel focus is key in fighting sickness and disease, and this means finding a way to look at the individual.

Whether you are looking for new ways to address your type 2 diabetes patients’ care, are interested in the world of personalized molecular diagnostics for cancer, or just want to recommend some soothing music for your patients’ anxiety and pain, Medical News Today report on some of the technological innovations that could change patient care.

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3-D print,Duke University

3-D-printable implants may ease damaged knees

A cartilage-mimicking material created by researchers at Duke University may one day allow surgeons to 3-D print replacement knee parts that are custom-shaped to each patient’s anatomy.

Human knees come with a pair of built-in shock absorbers called the menisci. These ear-shaped hunks of cartilage, nestled between the thigh and shin bones, cushion every step we take. But a lifetime of wear-and-tear – or a single wrong step during a game of soccer or tennis – can permanently damage these key supports, leading to pain and an increased risk of developing arthritis.

The hydrogel-based material the researchers developed is the first to match human cartilage in strength and elasticity while also remaining 3-D-printable and stable inside the body. To demonstrate how it might work, the researchers used a $300 3-D printer to create custom menisci for a plastic model of a knee.

“We’ve made it very easy now for anyone to print something that is pretty close in its mechanical properties to cartilage, in a relatively simple and inexpensive process,” said Benjamin Wiley, an associate professor of chemistry at Duke and author on the paper, which appears online in ACS Biomaterials Science and Engineering.

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