The future of medicine isn’t a matter of mass-market solutions, of one-size-fits-all medical treatment. 

As it stands now, we must content ourselves with vaccines and surgeries and medicine that do the most good for the most amount of people: there are always going to be outliers, and cost and technology prevent us from helping all of the people all of the time. 

But what if that didn’t have to be true much longer? What if treatment could cater to each individual person, based on not only their lifestyle choices and unique environment but their exact DNA?

What if I told you that with the right technology, legislation, medical computers, and medical devices, this is already possible right now?

What is Precision Medicine?

The term “precision medicine” refers to this bespoke medical treatment, a combination of customized drugs, procedures, treatment plans, and advice designed for one individual patient. The Precision Medicine Initiative — an organization of research centers including the National Institute of Health — describes precision medicine as “an emerging approach for disease treatment and prevention that takes into account individual variability in genes, environment, and lifestyle for each person.”

Basically, the gene maps derived from the Human Genome Project are being put to use. First, genetic information is given by willing gene donors. This is information is then scanned and mapped by AI and medical computers and safely store with other genomic data. Machine learning then is able to analyze this data, find patterns in it, and then create tools to find these kinds of biomarkers in similar patients. 

This data then allows doctors to create strategies for health for patients of similar ethnicity, background, or overall genetic makeup. Patients themselves can become gene donors, creating an even more customized and useful dataset for diagnosing and treating their own conditions.

Why Do We Need Precision Medicine?

The truth is, not all human bodies are equal. To put it simply, if crudely: we’re all just bags of water and meat. What works on the body chemistry of one of us may have little or no effect on another. Alternately, and perhaps most dangerously, a chemical, drug, or treatment could end up having the opposite effect, doing far more damage than good. 

In medicine, this is referred to as a “paradoxical reaction,” where a drug achieves exactly the opposite of what it’s supposed to do. For instance, a small portion of people may respond to benzodiazepine (a sedative for anxiety) by actually become more excited, talkative, and filled with energy. Obviously, for someone already suffering from anxiety, that combination could be catastrophic. 

Antidepressants have been known to backfire as well, as have various other tranquilizers, stimulants, and even certain blood pressure medication. Anyone of these missteps could cause serious harm, and there’s really no way to know a patient is going to react poorly until they’ve taken the medication.

Moreover, different combinations of drugs can also produce unusual side-effects in certain people. As you can see, this creates a veritable minefield for physicians, patients, and even pharmacists. And the only way to navigate that minefield is with a map — a personalized map, of the patient’s body down to their genetic code.

How is Precision Medicine Achieved? 

One of the primary avenues for success with precision medicine is the practice of pharmacogenomics. The goal of pharmacogenomics is to customize drug dosage, composition, and treatment based on the patient’s individual genetic makeup and risk factors.

Of course, data alone is only a book on a shelf in a vast library: to fully implement the insights culled from collecting so much genetic information, the data has to be organized, analyzed, stored, and most importantly shared. AI and machine learning, combined with pattern recognition algorithms, are deployed to collate the data. However, storing it safely — while still making it accessible to all of the physicians who need it — can be trickier. 

This is where cutting-edge concepts combine: precision medicine with blockchain data sharing. Blockchain is, in short, an interconnected series of secure nodes that achieve security through ubiquity: in layman’s terms, the data is stored in multiple places, but is also all tracked in every node on the blockchain network. What this means is that the data can’t be stolen or altered, and even if it is accessed, each interaction is tracked by every other ledger on the network.

This is useful for something like precision medicine because a person’s genetic information is about as private as it gets: no one is going to feel comfortable becoming a gene donor (and thus contributing positively to precision medicine for everyone) if they don’t trust that their most intimate information will be safe.

This is why two-factor authentication and more secure methods of login are so important. Doctors and other clinicians and medical professors looking to log into blockchain-protected information need to be able to do so quickly and securely. Medical tablets, computers, or medical devices with built-in RFID, barcode, smart card, and biometric readers can be logged in with a quick swipe and a pin number (or however you customize it). 

Ideally, a healthcare provider with genomic information on a blockchain can connect the process with the pre-existing patient portal. In that case, it can even be programmed such that anytime a doctor, clinician, researchers, or scientist accesses the gene donor’s genes, they’re actually informed. They’d get an email or message that would tell them who accessed the gene map, why they did it, and what the information was used for.

This kind of transparency not only increases confidence in current gene donors, but it encourages more donors to come forward. And the more information we have on every conceivable mix of DNA, the more we can leverage this data to help all patients in the future.

Where Has Precision Medicine Been Successfully Deployed?

Precision medicine has seen great leaps and strides in the field of cancer research and treatment, using predictive biomarkers from the patient’s own gene information. These biomarkers can be analyzed for patterns, the kind that often presages things like tumors and other potentially cancerous growths. 

Precision medicine has already been deployed primarily for cancer treatment. The process usually begins with a genomic test, where the patient’s genes are mapped. Then, a doctor or group of doctors will go over the results and recommend a treatment plan based off the patient’s current symptoms and the likely patterns found in their DNA and the DNA of others like them.

Then, tumors are treated with a targeted therapy more customized for how the patient (and their tumor) will react. Instead of trial-and-error with chemotherapy or radiation treatments, they can recommend the treatment most likely to be effective. Not only will this move the treatment process along faster, it means skipping an uncomfortable or even harmful treatment that the doctor may otherwise have had to try on the patient.  

Having the Right Medical Technology for the Job

Precision is a rapidly expanding field, a still-nascent process that nevertheless can have huge potential for improving patient outcomes at a much faster rate. The key to being ready to deploy it is a strong technological strategy, embracing ideas like blockchain networks (and the secure medical computers needed to operate them), HD medical monitors for diagnosis, powerful servers for AI and machine learning, and a fast, agile policy for piloting new ideas.

To learn more about precision medicine, and the technology needed to successfully implement it, reach out to the experts at Cybernet today.