The completion of the Human Genome Project and the complete mapping of the human genome in 2004 made way for an entirely new field of research and lead to great advancements in the world of medicine. Since that moment, scientists and doctors have been able to pin point specific genes that may lead to increased risk for certain diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, certain types of cancers, etc. Through much of this research, it has become clear that many diseases have a racial pattern based on genetic ancestry. But what happens when we pull race into the mix when it comes to genetics based medicine?
Before we go any further, it’s important to note that genetics are genetics. The genetic makeup of any one human is unique and the markers you have will vary from the person next to you. It’s the reason why each of us is uniquely us. If you were to sequence the genome of one person, it would be entirely different from the sequenced genome of another person. This thought is exciting for medicine because it means that we may be one step closer to highly personalized treatment plans and health approaches that could result in better, more efficient treatment and improved health overall. But this is where race tends to fall into the mix.
When an individual enters a doctor’s office and fills out paperwork, one of the things they are generally asked to note is their race, ethnicity, background, etc. Doctor’s often use this information as a guide to eliminate the likelihood or increased risk factor for certain diseases. For years it has been scientifically proven that certain diseases are somewhat race related. Hispanics tend to experience increased death from liver disease, diabetes is nearly twice as prevalent in the African American community as it is for White Americans, cystic fibrosis is nine times more common for White Americans than it is African Americans, and Asian Americans account for more than half of the chronic hepatitis B cases in America. Doctors use this information while treating their patients and pull from these statistics to make a diagnosis. However, blanket medicinal assumptions like this can be dangerous, leading to misdiagnosis or a failure to treat a condition that differs from the norm for that ethnicity.
Accurate diagnosis and treatment of the ailments belonging to a person of any race is the reason that genetics based medicine is so exciting. A patient could potentially walk into a doctor’s office having had genetic work done and use that info to address any health concerns. Of course certain genetic markers that are common in that patient’s ethnic background are still important and would still be addressed, but only because they appear on their genetic workup. Therapies and treatment programs would be highly individualized and more comprehensive as a result. For the first time, doctor’s would be able to look at the way your individual body works and tailor blanket treatments such as chemo, hormone therapy, etc. to your personal genetic needs, regardless of race.
Of course for now, fully personalize genetics based medicine for every individual is too good to be true. While all of us here at Genetic Direction are doing our best to make genetic testing for your health that much more accessible, the fact of the matter is, genetic testing is newly available to the public and still a little pricey as a result. Socio-economic disparities amongst race is one of the biggest reasons there may still be existing health disparities amongst different races even with new genetic based medicine. For example, African Americans may be more likely to develop diabetes due to a disparity in high quality, affordable health care and nutritional education. Someone struggling with health issues who already can’t afford to see a doctor, likely won’t be paying the money for genetic testing. This is where the disparity occurs in genetics based medicine at the moment. For now, we provide you with the highest quality private genetic testing available in order to help you personally improve your health, whether that be for weight loss, digestion, aging, etc. Our hope is that one day, genetics based testing will become more affordable for all, or better yet, a routine part of your health checkup. We’re paving the way for more holistic medicinal practices. We know that everyone would benefit from knowing more about their genes, after all, they make you…you.