Britain to make genome database

DNA molecule

Briton has taken the initiative when it comes to mass sequencing and are doing it in order to provide better health care opportunities to their residents.

Britain will be the first country to introduce a database of genetic sequences into a mainstream health service, officials say, giving doctors a more advanced understanding of a patient’s illness and what drugs and other treatments they need.

It could significantly reduce the number of premature deaths from cancer within a generation, Prime Minister David Cameron’s office said in a statement.

“By unlocking the power of DNA data, the NHS (National Health Service) will lead the global race for better tests, better drugs and above all better care,” Cameron said on Monday.

His government has set aside 100 million pounds ($160 million) for the project in the taxpayer-funded NHS over the next three to five years.

Harpal Kumar, chief executive of the charity Cancer Research UK, said the work would uncover new information from which doctors and scientists will learn about the biology of cancers and develop new ways to prevent, diagnose and treat them.

He said some targeted, or personalized, cancer treatments such as Novartis’ Gleevec, or imatinib – a drug for chronic myeloid leukemia – are already helping to treat patients more effectively.

Some critics of the project, known as the “UK genome plan”, have voiced concerns about how the data will be used and shared with third parties, including with commercial organizations such as drug companies.

Genewatch, a campaign group fighting for genetic science and technologies to be used in the public interest, has said anyone with access to the database could use the genetic codes to identify and track every individual on it and their relatives.

Cameron’s office said the genome sequencing would be entirely voluntary and patients would be able to opt out without affecting their NHS care. It said the data would be made anonymous before it is stored.

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Latest on Personalized Medicine

Personalized Medicine-A Perspective

With the advent of Human Genome Project, the domain of personalized medicine has developed. However an important thing to realize is that the human genome presents somewhat of a “moving target”. This means that we are still a long way from interpreting the individual genome accurately. The complete premise of personalized medicine borders on the fact that we are able to assess the personal genome of an individual accurately.

A very simple example of this mobility of the genome is represented by hair loss in men. This indicates that the genome structure is changing with age. This phenomenon is now being studied by Kiho Cho at the Shriners Hospitals for Children, Northern California. This concept of hair loss can be similarly applied to disease based phenotypes as well. Juvenile cancer cases are less than adult cancers.

Cho and his co-workers have reported their findings in Experimental and Molecular Pathology. The purpose of this study has been to study the genome changes as per the age. Transposon activity of retroelements has also been noted to provide a clearer picture. Cho found that in mice liver tissue, the size of the genome increased with age. Furthermore, he and his colleagues were also able to find that the copy number of retro elements (of sub families) had increased by two fold. Their findings are important in the sense that now we know that retro elements will play a better role in the understanding of personal genome.

“DNA is changing spatially and temporally, meaning that within one subject — in this case an inbred mouse — depending on the tissue type, the structure of DNA is different,” Cho says. “And also, depending on the age, within the same tissue type, the DNA structure is changing. It is likely that DNA structure is unique for the individual cell, although we don’t yet have as much data on that as we would like at this point.”

An important insight that can be derived from this study is that now personalized medicine faces a newer challenge before it can be made common. New research and revision of protocol is required for better interpretation of the structural transformations of any individual’s genome. The next thing that would be targeted is whether these changes are cell specific or not. This would be helpful for cancer related studies.

Cho is of the idea that if we are able to highlight the structural changes and their correlation with diseases process, we would be able to come up with better prognostic markers.










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