Genetic mapping next tech threshold
MOST WOULD agree that life is not getting simpler. The next generation faces an increasing number of complex issues, especially related to health care. With this growing complexity come great opportunities, for those who are prepared.
This theme ran through the three-day Hawaii BioScience Conference last week, focused on the molecular basis for disease. Hosted by the University of Hawaii Department of Medicine, world-renowned speakers highlighted developments in biotechnology that provide great potential to better manage or prevent both chronic and infectious diseases. Great advances are also in store for making health care more individualized as medical scientists uncover links between our genetic individuality and its biological consequences.
Question: What will it mean to have health-care decisions made based on personal biology?
Answer: Most of us do not think about the thousands of chemical reactions continuously going on in the cells of the body. Based on the unique genetic combinations you obtained from your parents, these chemical reactions might require more or less of certain nutrients and be more or less affected by the chemicals in drugs, herbs, foods or the environment.
Health-care decisions based on personal biology will be able to lower your health risks according to your genetic weak links, individualize your nutrient requirements and determine the most safe and effective treatments. Future advances promise to accomplish this by analyzing the genetic information available in a speck of blood or swab of the cheek.
This might sound like science fiction, but the reality is just around the corner. This presents the next generation with great potential benefits and big challenges.
Q: How can the next generation best prepare for the future?
A: Speaking at the conference, Bruce Alberts, past president of the National Academy of Sciences, stressed the necessity of a scientifically educated population and scientists who can communicate well to the public. In this context of scientific literacy, the combination of biological with computer science in the growing field of bioinformatics can thrive sorting out the meanings of individual variations in the human genome. The next Bill Gates will likely be a youngster who is currently fascinated with both computers and biology.
, Ph.D., C.N.S. and Joannie Dobbs
, Ph.D., C.N.S. are
nutritionists in the Department of Human Nutrition, Food and Animal Sciences, College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, UH-Manoa. Dr. Dobbs also works with the University Health Services and prepares the nutritional analyses marked with an asterisk in this section. See also: Health Events