A new DNA Bank in Puerto Vallarta, the first of its kind in the area, will allow researchers to not only conduct further studies on diseases thought to carry a predisposition element, but also to diagnose such diseases early on for prevention.
The new laboratory facility is located at Centro Universitario de la Costa (CUCosta) and currently stores 800 DNA samples. Samples are small portions of blood kept at low temperatures for preservation that can be used in testing and research of many common illnesses.
Because DNA sequences are passed with very little variation from one generation to the next, a DNA test in a 95 year old great-grandmother is of immediate and direct relevance to the health of her six-month-old great-grandson. This new DNA Bank will allow such early diagnoses and treatments to be available to the residents of the area, along with studying preventative measures for the general public.
In the short term, the bank will serve as a scientific laboratory studying the behavior of common diseases in our area. “This laboratory will help health authorities so they can generate campaigns of prevention and early diagnosis for the people in our area,” says Doctor Miriam Partida Pérez, who opened the center.
A growing understanding of human genetics holds the promise to dramatically change health care through customized preventative care and treatments. The concept of using DNA to predict the health risks of an individual isn’t new science; it’s widely used to determine the odds of cancer, diabetes, and other diseases. This course of medical study is also referred to as “Personalized Medicine”.
The basic concept is that every person has a unique variation of the human genome. Although most of the variation between individuals has no effect on health, an individual’s health stems from genetic variation with behaviors and influences from the environment.
One way that biological variation among people makes itself clear, is responsiveness to drugs: ADHD medicine only works for one of ten preschoolers, cancer drugs are effective for 25% of patients, and depression drugs work with 6 of 10 patients.
Modern advances in personalized medicine rely on technology that confirms a patient’s fundamental biology, DNA, RNA, or protein, which ultimately leads to confirming disease. For example, personalized medicine techniques such as genome sequencing can reveal mutations in DNA that influence diseases ranging from cystic fibrosis to cancer. Another method, called RNA-seq, can show which RNA’s are involved with specific diseases. Unlike DNA, levels of RNA change in response to the environment. Therefore, sequencing RNA can reveal a broader understanding of a person’s state of health. Methods of RNA-seq are very similar to genome sequencing.