What is Preventative and Genetic Medicine?
As the old saying goes, it’s better to prevent rather than cure. Nowadays, we’re experiencing a shift in medicine, focusing more on prevention rather than treating the cause. The constant advancements in modern medicine allow us to gain a deeper understanding of each person’s individual health, through innovative methods like genetic testing.
The molecular dimensions of genetic tests has the capacity of detecting small individual variations (polymorphisms) of the genetic material that codifies the proteins in charge of biological processes. These advances have created a positive impact in modern medicine and in the health of people, making it possible to diagnose future pathologies before they develop.
Medicine was born from the necessity to alleviate the symptoms provoked by ailments. Without a doubt, many lives are saved on a daily basis by treating the cause. However, we need to have a stronger focus on preventative medicine, as its main objective is to prevent illnesses and health problems by following healthy lifestyle habits tailored to each person’s state of health.
Genetic medicine is a huge advancement in medicine, as it has the capacity of foreseeing any potential health problems and applying the correct measures to avoid them from developing. For example, genetic tests are able to diagnose certain variations in the HFE gene (localized in chromosome 6), which is known to cause a higher risk of suffering an accumulation of iron in the organism (hemochromatosis), which can cause serious hepatic injuries (cirrhosis) as well as pancreatitis (diabetes) and low testosterone levels.
Genetic medicine allows us to identify these types of alterations ahead of time, before the illness develops. For individuals with a genetic predisposition of absorbing high levels of iron, the most reasonable and sustainable approach isn’t to perform hepatic transplants or placing insulin pumps to patients who need it, instead, bloodletting would be performed periodically, much before metal deposits develop in the viscera. Another option is to recommend nutritional specifications (avoid eating foods rich in iron) to not only avoid severe clinical manifestations, but also the possibility of becoming ill. This is one of the many cases that can be seen in genetic testing. There are thousands of variations of the results that are obtained through these tests, as each individual has their own genetic code.
Genomic medicine is building a new paradigm in the world of medicine, focusing primarily on prevention, and as a second and third option respectively, curing and alleviating.