Genomics: a new frontier in the fight against neurodegenerative diseases
Neurons are the foundation of the nervous system, including both the brain and spinal cord. When they become damaged or die, they cannot reproduce or be replaced by the body, creating debilitating conditions.
Neurodegenerative diseases including Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s disease result in progressive degeneration of nerve cells, causing problems with movement (ataxia) or mental functioning (dementia).
Neurodegenerative diseases, like those listed above, are becoming one of our fastest-growing and most significant health risks. There are 10 million new cases of dementia globally every year, with the total number of people projected to reach 82 million in 2030 and 152 million in 2050. Yet research and diagnosis are years behind other diseases like cancer. Despite there being differences between subtypes, these conditions are still treated as one big group. In fact, up to 20% of patients with motor neurone disease (MND) are still misdiagnosed.
The good news is that genomics and, more specifically, genomic medicine — an emerging medical discipline — have the potential to make diagnosis and treatment of neurodegenerative diseases far more efficient and effective, supporting new therapeutic options for patients. So, how can this emerging discipline be used to better support patients suffering from neurodegenerative diseases?
Understanding the role of genomics
As it stands, our understanding of the genetic basis for many neurodegenerative diseases remains incomplete. While the human genome project first gave us a look at the make-up of the body, we now have to go beyond the genome to understand the real causes of such conditions, and that’s where technology can play a critical role.
As an example, at GenieUs, we’re using technology that combines deeper genomic analysis with complete RNA from multiple human tissues to create a total genomic map of each patient. What’s also critical is that as we grow older and change, so too do our genes. To truly understand how neurodegenerative diseases affect patients over their life, it’s important to track their genetic make-up over time and understand how their condition evolves. Using precise data to guide us, we can gain deeper insights into what is going on with each individual — with the potential to help diagnose patients quickly and create personalised treatments.
Personalised diagnosis and treatment
When it comes to neurodegenerative diseases, it’s simply not a one-size-fits-all approach. Despite the billions spent researching and creating these drugs, few have worked and most fail those suffering from such conditions.
Personalised medicine is one of the most promising approaches to tackling diseases that have eluded effective treatments previously. Creating personalised diagnosis and treatment with the help of health records, genetic testing and big data analytics is what is quickly becoming truly precise medicine that can have a powerful impact on patients. At GenieUs, our goal is to develop personalised therapies designed to target and treat each patient in their own way. Using genomic maps, these new therapies are designed to target the genetic microRNA mutations that are potentially driving disease, and then to deliver targeted, personalised therapies to each patient effectively.
While genomics, and genomic medicine, is still an emerging medical discipline, strengthening our understanding in this area has the power to make a real difference to those suffering with neurodegenerative diseases, and we’re still uncovering what revolutionary insights are likely hidden in the human genetic code. As we progress, genomics can help drive and develop targeted therapies and personalised medicine for patients suffering from neurodegenerative diseases, unleashing the power to transform the lives of millions of Australians and patients across the globe.
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