What if…we knew our illnesses beforehand?
Advancement in genomics, a genetic discipline for creating and living a normal life, does not only result in more accurate illness treatment. The analysis on genetic difference in the gene controlling effectiveness of a medicine also helps physicians prescribe the type and quantity of medicine for each individual patient more suitably. Personalized medicine reduces the risk of excessive intake and save costs. However, it only provides treatment after an illness occurs. Wouldn’t it be better if patients knew from the start their potential for developing a certain illness, in order to nip it in the bud? Predictive medicine is a new alternative that is being developed along with genetic knowledge. The discipline studies the risk for a specific disease by inspecting SNP (Single Nucleotide Polymorphism). For example, detecting the abnormality of BRCA1 which is accountable for 65% of breast cancer will revolutionize traditional medicine; changing from symptomatic treatment to preventive treatment, by suggesting lifestyle and preventive medication from the beginning.
Such treatment might increase the survival rate, but DNA sequence examination is still very expensive because the equipment alone costs 500,000 USD. Determined to reduce the cost, Jonathan Rothberg, the founder of Ion Torrent, invented a 10 times cheaper DNA testing machine. Instead of laser and microscope, he used semiconductor chips (like in smart phones) which contain 1.5 million sensors for detecting hydrogen atom by the sequence in DNA. A chip can be used only once and detect 10-20 million spirals from the total of 3,000 billion within a few hours, unlike the former design which can detect more but take weeks to get the result and costs a lot more.
The new technique reduces the DNA machine production cost to merely 50,000 USD. Although it is still in development stage and the chip, which can only be used once, is still pretty costly at 250 USD, it is undoubtedly a major step towards an affordable and accessible DNA testing for the public. Meet the visionaries who are inspired by the challenges in the world today and trying to figure out the way to better living tomorrow at CU 2014 (Creativities Unfold, Bangkok) in August at TCDC.
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