Personalised medicine is the future of healthcare
DNA testing is not just a way for us to discover where we come from, determine paternity or to enable the prosecution of criminals. Genetic tests can help us make smarter health and lifestyle choices and determine more effective solutions to optimise health, prevent ill health and reach our goals.
Personalised medicine is predictable and precise, enabling us and our healthcare practitioners a unique understanding of human biology with new ways to analyse health data. I interviewed Dr Danny Meyersfeld, CEO of DNAlysis Biotechnology, one of South Africa’s premier genetic testing laboratories. Let’s see what he has to say.
WHY DO WE NEED GENETIC MEDICINE?
‘Our genes determine who we are,’ says Dr Meyersfeld. ‘From our predisposition to various chronic diseases, to how we respond to environmental input, determining our unique requirements for nutrients for optimal health, the most appropriate diet type to improve weight management, how we respond to certain medications, and even how certain lifestyle choices may benefit one individual over another, our genes are the key to identifying personalised healthcare needs.’
Genetic tests look for small variations in our DNA, which is the blueprint for our individuality. Changes or variations in our DNA have been shown in the scientific literature to modify the way a certain gene functions. This in turn affects the biochemistry within the cell leading to a host of potential health consequences.
It is true that mainstream medicine applies the same treatment in a one size fits all fashion, regardless of our genetics and other determining factors. Our genetic makeup has a significant impact on our metabolism of pharmaceutical drugs and with that, our response to medication.
There is no better example of the value of a personalized medicine approach than considering the massive number of hospitalizations and death attributable to adverse drug reactions.
THE FOUR TESTING PILLARS
Medication screening: Medcheck™ helps guide your healthcare practitioner in choosing the most effective prescription medication for you, reducing side effects and a hit and miss approach, resulting in treatment failure.
Risk screening: These tests provide clinical insight for at-risk individuals into certain disorders and guide diagnostic insights and therapy decisions.
Ancestry screening: Find out where in the world you come from.
Nutritional Genetics: Testing your DNA can point to changes that you may need to make to your lifestyle, your personal dietary choices and supplement needs. DNAlysis nutrigenomics tests sit at the forefront of personalised medicine, providing insight across the health spectrum for those seeking improved health outcomes
DNAlysis tests include:
- DNA Active®
- DNA Smile®
- DNA Resilience®
- DNA Diet®
- DNA Health®
- DNA Sport®
- DNA Skin®
- DNA Oestrogen®
- DNA Mind®
New tests are continually being developed, provided that there is sound motivation for their clinical use and impact on health outcomes.
DNALYSIS’S MEDCHECK™ TEST
According to Dr Meyersfeld: ‘Personalised medicine recognises that we are all unique and that standardised treatment is no longer sufficient to ensure the optimal health of the individual. It improves the specificity and effectiveness of medicine, by making it more targeted and specific to each patient. It also allows the patient to take control of their own health.’
Differences in inherited makeup among individuals affect what the body does to a drug and what the drug does to the body.
In the same way that our DNA determines characteristics such as eye and hair colour, it also controls the way our enzymes work. Variations in DNA affect the enzymes that process medications. ‘For a particular pharmaceutical product to be effective, it needs to be present in the bloodstream at a specific concentration,’ says Meyersfeld. Depending on which enzymes a person has or doesn’t have, their reaction to a drug can be faster or completely dormant.
Medcheck™ determines the safest and most effective drug available to us and is simply done by means of a finger prick. The test focuses primarily on genes associated with drug responsiveness for cardiovascular disease, psychiatry, pain management as well as other drug classes such as anticancer agents, inhaled anaesthetics, antimalarials, and anticonvulsants.
It analyses genetic variations within 63 genes, giving recommendations on the effectiveness and potential side effects of approximately 200 different prescription drugs. Reduce your risk – take the test and have the results within 10 working days. The report visually highlights significant results for rapid decision-making.
You only need to do the test once as your profile will remain on their database. This will not only assist your health practitioner in determining the right medication and dose specifically for you but will give you the opportunity to request other nutrigenomic tests later in life.
The drug database gets updated annually, and your (unchanged) DNA profile can be used in any future prescription drug tests. Your profile is also easily accessible by not only your current healthcare practitioner, who may have requested the test, but also by any future medical specialists such as psychiatrists or cardiologists.
Patients most likely to benefit from Medcheck™ testing include those:
- Planning to start on a new medication
- Experiencing side effects to specific medications
- Not responding to specific medications
- Requiring doses outside the recommended range genetic factors may predispose to disease, and how these genetic factors can be overcome with the appropriate interventions.
A DNA kit will be sent to you with a set of instructions and everything you need for a simple finger prick.
HOW ACCURATE ARE DNA TESTS?
With the rise of direct-to-consumer DNA kits, which can be ordered online, Meyersfeld advises consumers that it is important to ensure that the testing laboratory is accredited to international standard and that it is technically competent and able to produce precise and accurate test data.
UNLOCK THE FULL VALUE OF A TEST
DNAlysis offers training to healthcare practitioners to ensure the appropriate and responsible use of genetic testing. ‘It is only in the hands of a well-trained clinician that genetic tests become truly valuable,’ says Meyersfeld. ‘When they buy a DNA test, our customers are asked to select a practitioner, or we can help appoint one to you, from our accredited network to guide them through the consultation process.’ For more information visit https://dnalysis.co.za.
Now is the time to take control of your health proactively so you can prevent the onset of disease. Speak to your healthcare practitioner about how genetic testing can provide valuable diagnostic insights to help you better understand where you may be at risk, and better manage your wellbeing.
Their ISO-accredited laboratories in Johannesburg and Helsinki process more than 2000 DNA samples per month, reporting on Nutrigenomics, Pharmacogenomics, Ancestry and Risk Screening in over 40 countries.
For more information, please visit www.dnalysis.co.za. To take the test, you may contact DNAlysis directly on (011) 268 0268, or order your test online or contact a DNAlysis practitioner.
Daleen Totten interviews molecular biologist Dr Daniel Meyersfeld on genetic testing, specifically Nutrigenomics (personalized nutrition) and Pharmacogenomics (personalized drug prescription). They discuss the benefits of genetic testing for personalized healthcare interventions and how to access these services in South Africa.