Faulty genes that cause heart disease focus of personalized medicine

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Credit: Nicolas Raymond

The human genome project began a decade of advancement in personalized medicine. Sequencing large amounts of genetic material has made many diseases easier to identify and treat, none more so than cancer.

Most cancer patients now have their tumors genetically analyzed. That information helps oncologists pinpoint whether radiation or which specific types of chemotherapy agents will best treat their tumor type. In fact, some specialists think within the next decades, we will stop identifying cancers by location (breast, skin, prostate) and instead describe them by their genetic characteristics.

Heart disease is not far behind, says Elizabeth McNally, director of the cardiovascular genetics clinic at University of Chicago. So far, genes have been identified for heart failure, cardiomyopathy, congenital heart disease, arrhythmias and vascular disease and subtypes of these diseases, McNally wrote in Science Translational Medicine:

The payoff is clear: a precise genetic diagnosis for the individual patient which helps influence the choice of treatment. The same genetic information is also a diagnostic tool for family members to determine who is at risk for developing disease.

Ultimately, she says, cardiac disease will be treated by correcting these faulty genes.

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