Genetic mapping is a nascent technology that has elicited an era of individualized treatments in patient care. The premise of the technology is based on the sequenced blueprint of a person’s genome (DNA). Since every person’s blueprint is unique, his/her DNA sequence can be used to predict the likelihood of developing a certain disease or a positive response to a drug or treatment. The revolutionary technology has contributed a lot of useful data in predicting the probability of having a disease; however, scientists caution that DNA sequencing is not a crystal ball. They remind us that disease development is a multi-dimensional event caused by the interplay of multiple internal factors and external factors. At current stage, genetic mapping only focuses on a single internal factor–sequence integrity of one gene. Thus, genetic sequencing provides limited data to predict a patient’s susceptibility to a complex ailment.
Latest data by the research community shows that genetic sequencing (DNA scanning) is not sufficiently advanced to take into account the interaction of multiple genes and the environment in causing an ailment. The technology is most powerful when used to assess the risk of a disease triggered by a single faulty gene. For example, genetic testing is commonly used to evaluate the risk for developing the neurodegenerative disorder Huntington’s disease–caused by the excess repeats of the glutamine genetic code–during prenatal testing. However, in the case of cancer caused by multiple genes and their interaction with external factors, genetic testing fails to give reliable data to assess the risk.
Even though genetic mapping has its limitations, its value could not be underestimated. Not only does it offer insight into the risk of developing a disease, it also gives doctor an idea of how a patient will respond to various medical treatments. This information is immensely valuable in elevating the effectiveness of drug administration. In other words, the technology helps in extracting the greatest benefit with a fixed cost of treatment.
Reference: “Gene Maps Are No Cure-all” from the Wall Street Journal by Christopher Weaver, and published on April 3, 2012.