Personalized Medicine & the Power of Lab Automation

Similar to humans and their DNA, diseases can have similar traits but in reality they are all different in some way. With that said, humans are such unique individuals that they react to therapies in a variety of ways. For example, you and your friend both get a headache and you each take ibuprofen to feel better; after 30 minutes you feel great, but your friend’s headache still remains. You both took the same amount and you are pretty close in terms of size and weight, but the treatment only worked for one of you. Why?

The answer lies within your DNA.

Each human being has their own unique variation of the human genome which is developed from their ancestors genetic variations combined with behaviors and influences from the environment throughout an individual’s life. With an in-depth analysis of an individual’s unique genetic composition, physicians can make more well-informed decisions and provide better treatments and therapies using a popular technique called genetic testing. This type of medical test helps identify changes in chromosomes, genes and proteins within a specific persons DNA, leading the process of creating customized treatment for a patients unique condition.

As you have probably seen in recent news or social media most of the hype surrounding the pharmaceutical and medical industries today focuses around one term, Personalized Medicine. Also referred to as Genomic Medicine, this comprehensive method of treating diseases involves the customization of healthcare as a whole, including gathering information, medical decisions, diagnostics, practices and products, all of which are tailored specifically to the patient at hand.

So why personalized medicine? Why now?Personalized Medicine & Laboratory Automation

Even though the one-size-fits-all approach may work well for some medicines such as cold medicines or antibiotics, every individual’s human genetics are unique. Diseases are also unique in the way they interact with the human body and the way they respond to treatments may vary. Believe it or not, children are typically given remedies that are just scaled down versions of adult medicine, but how do we know one specific, mass produced drug will affect every individual child the same way it affects adults?

Personalized Medicine offers countless benefits and optimism to prevent, diagnose, and treat diseases at much faster and efficient rates. The process begins with a blood sample taken from a patient which confirms their DNA and the proteins within. After the proteins are analyzed, the researchers can then provide better insight on a specific patient’s health such as:

  • Predicting a person’s risk for a particular disease; this will allow the patient to make early lifestyle changes or take medicines to reduce the risk of that disease later in life.
  • Enhanced and earlier diagnoses of diseases will allow the patient to begin treatment faster increasing the chances of curing the disease.
  • Distinguishing a patient’s responsiveness to specific treatments allows for the researcher to provide alternative treatments and eliminate ones that will be least effective.
  • Tailoring therapies specifically to an individual patient will provide a more unified and effective treatment approach

Many diseases that were previously thought of as a single disease actually consist of a multitude of different molecular variations all of which respond in a unique manner. Breast cancer is perhaps the best example of this because it is known to exist in a variety of forms, some being more complex or fast growing than others. Each form of the cancer has a slightly different response to therapy and medicines than the other which creates the need to make them more “personal” for the patient. Cancer immunotherapy, or biotherapy, is a form of personalized medicine that is rapidly growing. It focuses on using a patient’s own immune system to target and attack the cancer cells. This form of treatment was actually discovered in the 1800s but was never able to really thrive due to lack of resources and advanced technology. But even with the innovative research tools we use today, there are still problems at hand to make personalized medicine a widely used treatment approach.

What are the issues for Personalized Medicine and how can they be resolved?

The pharmaceutical industry is currently geared towards manufacturing consistent products on a large scale where they are mass produced for the “one-size-fits-all” approach to medicine. With that said, it almost seems impossible to manufacture millions of customized drugs for millions of people based on their individual genetics. If you think about it, there would almost need to be a custom manufacturing facility for each patient; meaning there would also need to be multiple people working to make one specific drug designed exclusively for the patient at hand. If so much time and effort goes into the making of one drug, how can we possibly do the same for the other millions of patients with diseases?

According to notorious well known cancer scientists Dr. Bruce Levine & Dr. Carl June, the answer may not be to “scale up” but instead “scale out” the process. Their idea involves using multiple facilities such as stem cell therapy and blood banking facilities as secondary distribution centers where the drugs come standard but are then customized to the individual patient. The concept is similar to how cars are mass produced and then can be customized at the dealership to the individuals liking. This will give the ability to space out where the manufacturing happens instead of focusing it all in one facility.

Another approach to personalized medicine (and perhaps one of the most popular) currently being used and continuing to grow is laboratory automation. This method plays an extremely important role in processing DNA microarrays where reproducibility is crucial. This process used to be performed manually but now with the availability of automation, the results are much more precise and reproducible allowing studies to be performed on a larger scale. Producing reliable, accurate high throughput protocols are crucial in minimizing potential for variation during clinical studies; any slight variation can make it difficult to differentiate between patients with disease and those without. If the technology fails to be reproducible, results will be inaccurate and incorrect conclusions may be drawn.

One superior feature about laboratory automation is the fact that it can be optimized to produce the exact same results with the ability to run the program around the clock. The reproducibility is so incredible and nearly impossible to accomplish in the past, that it is unmatched by any other technique. This single factor will improve the possibility of personalized medicine by offering faster diagnoses & more efficient delivery of care which eventually results in a quicker delivery speed of the treatment to the patient; when it comes to disease (especially cancer) the earlier the treatment, the better the results.

Even though personalized medicine is currently being used in the healthcare industry, there is still much to discover and improve in order to make it the “go-to” approach for medicine. By eliminating drugs that are neither safe nor effective, personalized medicine will continue to revolutionize and improve healthcare. The “personal” approach will make sure every patient is receiving a specific treatment that they truly need based on their genetics, environmental risks and other individual characteristics. As laboratory automation continues to grow, especially in the field of laboratory robotics, healthcare will also improve, costs will decrease and treatments will become more effective with a personal approach for each individual patient.

With this groundbreaking approach to personalized treatment, LabRepCo is proud to provide a variety of Laboratory Automation and Personalized Medicine equipment solutions for the clinical and research markets. Whether you are in the clinical research or life sciences industries we are confident we can deliver the premium equipment you need in order to execute your research and make innovative discoveries. For more information on these products, view the links below: