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Surprising Science

Doctor’s Self-Experiments Pioneer Personalized Medicine

A Stanford genetics professor who subjected his genes to a Truman Show of medical tests, taking regular blood samples over two-and-a-half years, may pioneer personalized medicine. 

What’s the Latest Development?

Over two-and-a-half years, Stanford genetics professor Michael Snyder tracked the movement of 40,000 different molecules within his body’s cells, from hormones to blood sugar. The DNA tests revealed that Snyder had a genetic predisposition to type-2 diabetes even though his doctor observed no outward symptoms of the disease. But armed with a battery of medical metrics, Snyder watched as his genes changed and he developed diabetes, blaming a nasty cold which, putting stress on his immune system, could have unmasked underlying vulnerabilities. 

What’s the Big Idea?

Snyder’s experiment was not inexpensive. Over the years he took blood samples, extracting the molecular data from each one cost about $2,500, not to mention the price of the elaborate medical equipment needed to perform the analysis. But experts are hopeful that, as the price of genetic screening continues to drop, a new era of personalized medicine will allow scientists to “analyze a full range of molecular information at birth and then again every six months to catch medical warning flags and make lifestyle or medication changes before problems develop.”

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