As stated by a young Clark Kent, “All those things I can do, all those powers. And I couldn’t even save him.” kind of sums up the feelings that many in the healthcare industry have these days. Research and studies are happening all the time to further the knowledge base, and thus the possibilities for helping and healing patients. As such, there have been many medical precision advances that have aided in the progress of healthcare and its outcomes.
More advances have been made in this last couple of decades than in centuries before. Each innovative concept has given just a little more power to doctors and other health professionals to save someone or to make their life a little better, or to even prevent an illness from taking someone’s life. All of these steps forward are part of an arsenal of medical precision advances that are being added to each day, and being refined for more specific uses.
One differentiation that should be made is that precision medicine is somewhat related to personalized medicine but there are some significant variances: Studies are not to make medicine for each person, but to be more specific based on a person’s genetic makeup. In this respect, it is almost more about knowing the specific subset of a disease and matching a person’s genetic framework to it and the treatment that coincides. Many healthcare professionals see what they are doing each day as personalized medicine because they are working with patients one-on-one, thus being a personal relationship that may or may not have anything to do with medical treatment.
Precision medicine could really be seen more as a gateway to much more in-depth and specific medical processes, treatments, preventative measures, and medicine. We are only now being to define the parameters to it, and yet it is expanding every day in its potential and coverage. The government sees the importance of it, medical professionals see the capabilities of the future, and we all will feel the effects as more knowledge is discovered and applied to our healthcare routines.
Human Genome Project
We have known about the existence of DNA since 1869 when Friedrich Miescher was able to isolate the structure. But it took until 2003 for scientists to finally outline the sequencing and be able to better understand the possibilities that lie within its information.
The reason that this would be considered an advance to medicine is that physicians are using the information held inside the DNA to care for patients with personalized medicine; medicine that takes into account identified traits with their strengths and weaknesses. Specifically, right now, doctors working with cancer patients are able to isolate and use drugs that are better suited for an individual patient rather than treating all patients as equal. The result has been that many more patients have beat cancer more quickly and have eliminated the guessing game of what type of treatment might work best.
Stem Cell Research
Along the same lines as personalized medicine, the utilization of stem cells to help regenerate organs and tissue, along with prospective cures for diseases, stem cells help physicians to work with each patient individually. Though still in its infancy, stem cells hold great possibilities of making sure that each one of us could disregard diseases and illnesses that currently plague our world. The medical precision advancement isn’t readily used or completely understood, yet the journey to full discovery is well on its way.
Chemotherapy and radiation have been very effective at eradicating the growing cancer cells in a body, but they also damage healthy cells in the process. Targeted or individualized molecular cancer drugs work much differently; they target only the cancer cells by blocking the cells from replicating and dividing. The way that this is possible is that the targeting drugs go after the specific proteins within the cancer cells. In this respect, no other cells are damaged but the doctors need to know the specific proteins to which they must target. This is individual to the patient and very much a part of the medical precision care effort.
None of this would be possible without a vast amount of collected and analyzed data. This data is being created is stored in a sort of genetic registry where specific details can be looked up and added to. The registry allows doctors to match their patient with someone else with identical or similar characteristics, and then follow a more explicit plan of care. The removal of one-size-fits-all medical mentality is replaced by more precise and effective care for each individual patient. The outcomes are more positive, the elimination of wasted time and energy works to benefit patient and professional, and the ability to focus on needs at hand instead of playing a guessing game are all factors why the healthcare industry is putting so much emphasis on something that isn’t fully understood. Precision medical advances may be slow to make it to your local doctor’s office or emergency room, but they are making great headways into better treatments and improved care.