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Surprising Science

Human Genetics: The End of Medicine?

Will advances in genetics that allow individuals to be treated for disease according to their unique DNA bring about the end of medicine? Some doctors are wildly optimistic. Others, not.

What’s the Latest Development?

Some doctors predict big things from medicine as genetic research becomes more widely available. Patients may become more than their sex, age and bad habits, allowing treatment to target individual dysfunctional genes. In his new book, “The Creative Destruction of Medicine”, Dr. Eric Topol outlines some novel ideas like “pharmacogenomics, in which specific genes that govern responses to medications are routinely assayed, and cancer treatments that probe tumors for specific genetic targets rather than relying on standard chemotherapy.”

What’s the Big Idea?

Other are not necessarily skeptical of the advances that new genetic research may bring but they see treatment of any kind as something done to an entire person, not just a sliver of genetic material. Psychiatrist and ethicist Dr. Robert L. Klitzman says that despite potential advances in genetic treatment, many of the same psychological concerns that accompany disease will persist: ‘Do I want to know?,’ ‘Whom should I tell?’ and ‘Why me?’ When it comes to medicine, human patterns of thought and reaction may run as deep as our genes. 

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