I’m not kidding! Walgreens has made public its desire to sell DNA kits which test for SNPs, single nucleotide polyphormisms. These SNPs are genetic markers that code for some of the most common diseases and can be used as guides to determine which treatments would be most effective on an individualized level. This means one would be able to determine if a drug or nutrient would be helpful for them, not just pray it would work based on efficacy in the average of the whole population. An article posted at webmd highlights this story:
Geneticists tell WebMD that the Pathway test is probably very accurate, as far as it goes.
“They are not sequencing the genes, just the SNPs,” Jeffery Vance, MD, PhD, chairman of genetics at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, tells WebMD.
This means that while the test accurately identifies the most common variations on a gene linked to disease, it may miss rarer or yet-unknown variations that have the same effect.
“They could test for the six common SNPs that are most common ones that cause a disease, but a lot of other ones on the same gene could also go bad,” Vance says. “So absence of information like that does not give you clean bill of health.”
Even so, the test will accurately identify a large number of health-related risk factors. That’s both good and bad, says Robert Marion, MD, director of genetics and developmental medicine at Montefiore Children’s Hospital and Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, N.Y.
Of course, this is creating a stir in the medical community, with a major concern being that the supplier of the tests, Pathway, does not have FDA approval. This would lead most to believe that this test would have inaccurate results, but as the geneticist featured above states, this is not necessarily so.
What does this mean for you??
A clinician who has knowledge of what nutrients can help modify these SNPs, using nutrigenomic principles, can use results to modulate the gene expression (phenotype) of someone with a health concern. This doesn’t mean your genes will change, rather, it will aid in the silencing of negative gene characteristics and turning up the volume of positive ones.
Even now, some doctors are currently implementing this in their practice. Various testing for SNPs that affect detoxification, nutrient absorption, and hormonal balance can and are being used. I am currently in the process of studying this powerful science.
Therefore, the dream of the future of medicine using only individualized approaches is fast approaching, and is already here to some extent! Here is an excerpt on the power of nutrigenomics from 2007.
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 86, No. 3, 542-548, September 2007
© 2007 American Society for Nutrition
Nutrigenomics and metabolomics will change clinical nutrition and public health practice: insights from studies on dietary requirements for choline1,2,3
Steven H Zeisel1
1 From the Nutrition Research Institute, Department of Nutrition, School of Public Health and School of Medicine, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC
Science is beginning to understand how genetic variation and epigenetic events alter requirements for, and responses to, nutrients (nutrigenomics). At the same time, methods for profiling almost all of the products of metabolism in a single sample of blood or urine are being developed (metabolomics). Relations between diet and nutrigenomic and metabolomic profiles and between those profiles and health have become important components of research that could change clinical practice in nutrition. Most nutrition studies assume that all persons have average dietary requirements, and the studies often do not plan for a large subset of subjects who differ in requirements for a nutrient. Large variances in responses that occur when such a population exists can result in statistical analyses that argue for a null effect. If nutrition studies could better identify responders and differentiate them from nonresponders on the basis of nutrigenomic or metabolomic profiles, the sensitivity to detect differences between groups could be greatly increased, and the resulting dietary recommendations could be appropriately targeted.