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Pharmacogenetic Testing: Personalizing medicine through genetic testing | Home and Family

Historically, medication has been prescribed with a “one-size-fits-all” approach. Advances in genetic testing now allow medication to be tailored to the individual. In 2003 the Human Genome Project mapped the entire human genome (the complete set of DNA).

Humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes within the nucleus of each cell. Each chromosome has hundreds to thousands of genes. Each gene carries DNA (instructions for making proteins). Humans have an estimated 30,000 genes, some of which are responsible for how the body uses medications. Even a small difference in a gene can have a large impact on the way the body responds to medication. Humans share around 99.5 percent of their genomes. The 0.5 percent difference accounts for millions of differences between the DNA of two individuals. The study of how your genes affect individual responses to medications is known as pharmacogenetics.

What is pharmacogenetic testing?

With pharmacogenetic testing, an individual’s blood or saliva is used by a laboratory to look for changes in genes. Pharmacogenetic testing can determine whether a medication is an effective treatment, the dose of medication you may need, if you are likely to have side effects from a medication, or the likelihood of drug-to-drug interactions.

How do we know how genes affect medication response?

Researchers compare the genomes of people taking the same medication. They look for sets of people with certain genetic variations who share common treatment responses. These responses are things like greater side effects, a need for a higher dose, no benefit from the drug, or the optimal duration of treatment.

How is pharmacogenetic testing being used?

Doctors in primary care, mental health, cardiology, asthma, and cancer use pharmacogentic information to help prescribe the best drug for the patient. This information is used along…

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