Decoding Patient Care

By: Hope Gamper, Editorial Intern

Our understanding of the genetic code kicked off in 1953 when scientists Watson and Crick documented evidence of the double helix structure of DNA. Fifty years later the Human Genome Project, an initiative to map the entire human genome, was completed. Today, we know more about our As, Ts, Gs and Cs than ever before. This National DNA Day, April 25th**, let’s take a look at the ways knowing about genomics is beneficial to health care.

DNA is made up of billions of nucleotide pairs (those As, Ts, Gs and Cs) that are joined by hydrogen bonds. These bonds are very strong, and act as a reliable way to store our genetic information. Your complete set of genetic information is called your genome, which codes for everything from your hair color to how well you do in school, and it is part of what makes you you.

Your genome can also help doctors develop personalized treatment plans.

Patients with coronary artery disease at the University of Maryland Medical Center can receive long-term therapy based on their genetic information. Patients may elect to be tested for abnormal copies of the CYP2C19 gene, which can impact the efficacy of clopidogrel, an anticoagulant. Incorrect doses of drugs like clopidogrel can lead to serious heart attacks and strokes, so knowing a patient’s reaction before prescription is vital.

Advances in DNA sequencing and testing have opened the door for the more commonplace practice of genomic medicine. Every baby born in the United States is screened for inherited genetic diseases at birth, and whole genome sequencing can prevent misdiagnosis of an array of diseases from cerebral palsy to cystic fibrosis.

Applying new findings in genomic medicine on a routine clinical scale is a long and continuous process, but knowing more about the way the human genome works can only mean a bright future for personalized medicine.


**Sponsored by the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), DNA Day is a celebration of genetics and genomics. For an online education kit, visit the NHGRI website:

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