Categories
3D Printing Precision Medicine Startups

How 3D Printing will Shape the Future of HealthCare

Mariam Abdel-Baset—McMaster Life Sciences 2023

Close your eyes and think of a hospital. What is the first thing that comes to mind? Is it doctors and nurses running around from room to room? Do you think of a hospital drama and your favourite character? Or is it a big and modern building filled with a bunch of high-tech equipment.

It is no secret that hospitals are rely on many types of high-tech equipment to ensure that patients are provided with the best of care. From robots that perform remote concussion evaluations, to proton beam therapy that can be used to treat cancer, to labs that can process over 1,000 COVID-19 tests in a single day, it’s safe to say that technology and healthcare go hand in hand (1). As the largest demographic group in many countries is older adults, hospitals are in constant need of novel and innovative technology to treat them. To top, the increasing number of COVID-19 cases has strained hospital staff and resources, increasing the need for innovative technology.

Medical professionals must ask themselves what piece of technology has such potential to be the key in solving many of these medical problems? What tool has the potential of shaping the future of healthcare?

The answer to this question is 3D printing.

3D printing has come a long way in the last couple decades. It has evolved from a novel and unheard-of tool to a machine that can be found in many hospitals, offices and even homes. Today, 3D printing is used in numerous ways throughout hospitals. For example, it is used to cost effectively print materials such as bandages, stents, casts, and various surgical tools (2)! 3D printing is also used to make prosthetics, lowering the financial burden on patients from tens of thousands of dollars, to only hundreds of dollars. This makes medicine more accessible to many more individuals around the world (3). This amazing tool has also played a major role in supporting hospitals during the COVID-19 pandemic, as 3D printing was used to mass produce additional respirators – a device essential in the treatment of patients suffering from respiratory symptoms associated with severe COVID-19 infection.

Today, many researchers and doctors are looking at 3D printing to bridge the gap between patients requiring organ transplantation and the absence of suitable organ donors. As a result, organ transplantation waitlists can be eliminated, and individuals in need can receive a heart, lung, or kidney. Some researchers are even looking to print tissue, bones, heart valves and much more (4). At the University of Madrid, researchers have begun developing a prototype 3D printer that can print skin, which could potentially be used for accident or burn victims (5).  Researchers across the world are pushing the limits of 3D printing every day. With printing costs being much cheaper than acquiring a donated organ, millions of more people may be able to afford such procedures.

At this rate, printing parts of organs is not a question of “if”, but rather “when”. In 2020, the 3D printing market was valued at $12.6 billion, and it is only estimated to keep growing (6). The value of the 3D printing is expected to increase by 17% by 2023, and with it more advances in health care are predicted to follow (6). Time will only tell what will happen to the future of healthcare, but my guess is that 3D printing will play a huge role in it.

SOURCE: Advanced Solutions

References

  1. Upkeep. What are the Most Technologically Advanced Hospitals and How Are They Taking on Covid-19? 2020. [Internet] Available from: https://www.upkeep.com/answers/healthcare/top_technologically_advanced_hospitals
  2. Manufacturing Tomorrow. The Massive Potential of 3D Printing in the Healthcare Industry. 2020. [Internet] Available from: https://www.manufacturingtomorrow.com/story/2020/04/the-massive-potential-of-3d-printing-in-the-healthcare-industry/15155/
  3. General Electric. How 3D Printing Could Bend the Cost Curve in Healthcare. 2017. [Internet]. Available from: https://www.ge.com/news/reports/3d-printing-bend-cost-curve-healthcare
  4. The Medical Futurist. 3D Printing in Medicine and Healthcare – The Ultimate List In 2021. 2021. [Internet]. Available from https://medicalfuturist.com/3d-printing-in-medicine-and-healthcare/
  5. University of Madrid. 3-D bioprinter to print human skin. ScienceDaily. 2017. [Internet]. Available from: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/01/170123090630.htm
  6. Statistica. Global 3D printing products and services market size from 2020 to 2026. 2021. [Internet]. Available from: https://www.statista.com/statistics/315386/global-market-for-3d-printers/
Categories
Precision Medicine

Personalized Cancer Vaccines

Danielle Zak—McMaster Life Sciences OOD 2024

Cancer is a disease, resulting from a mutation which causes cells to divide uncontrollably1 and skip cell cycle checkpoints. This results in a tumor, a mass of damaged cells 1left undestroyed.  Tumors are classified as either benign or malignant. Benign tumors are not able to spread 1to  other regions of the body as they grow. Conversely, malignant tumors can metastasize, spread to  other parts of the body as pieces of the original tumor break off and travel through the  bloodstream.1 Cancers are predominately categorized as either carcinomas, sarcomas, leukemias or lymphomas, depending on the original cancerous tissue.1  

Immunotherapy is a cancer treatment which attempts to boost the immune response of the human  body.2 An example of such treatment are cancer vaccines, which administer cancer-specific  antigens, molecules for which antibodies are produced, found exclusively on the surface of  cancerous cells.2 Personalized cancer vaccines are created using the cancer-specific antigens  found on tumor cells of a specific patient.2 Once a patient’s tumor is partially removed during  surgery, a vaccine may be tailored using the specific antigens present on the surface of the  removed cancerous cells.2  

Personalized cancer vaccines contain patient-specific tumor derived epitopes,3 which are regions  of the cancer-specific antigens that are recognized by the immune system.4 The immunoresponse  to the epitopes is produced by cytotoxic T cells, also known as killer T cells. Cytotoxic T cells  are lymphocytes (type of white blood cell) that respond to cytokines and kill cancer cells.5  

One type of personalized cancer vaccine is the neoantigen cancer vaccine,3 that uses the specific  neoantigens from different mutations of individual patients’ tumors as a component of the  vaccine. These neoantigens can be mRNA, DNA, and peptides.3 The synthesis of such vaccines  uses next-generation sequencing which maps all the mutations relevant to the patient’s cancer,  and gives a neoantigen prediction.3 Then, algorithms and techniques are used to determine which  neoantigens3 are specific to the malignant tumors, and which are also present on non-cancerous cells.  

Another type of vaccine uses autologous tumor cells, which are cancer cells directly from the  patient’s tumor.3 These cells are extracted from the patient, are treated, and then re-administered  as either components of cells or as whole cells.3 As a result, autologous tumor cell vaccines  contain all the patient-specific tumor-derived antigens, making this type of vaccine faster to  produce.3  

Personalized cancer vaccines can be injected subcutaneously (under the skin) or intramuscularly (into the muscle), depositing a mass of antigens in the interstitial fluid (fluid surrounding cells).3 The injected antigens are only processed by the immune system once they diffuse into capillary  vessels, therefore only a small percentage of the injected antigens are processed.3 As a  

consequence, dosage and frequency of administering the vaccine must be increased for the T cell  response to be sufficient.3 Therefore, various delivery vectors, including cell vesicles, liposomes,  cells and synthetic carriers are used to increase the strength and duration of the immune  response.3 Additionally, there are three types of vaccine delivery strategies based on the location  of antigen introduction.3 These strategies are LN-targeting (through lymph nodes), intratumoural  action (into tumor) and depot-forming (injects vaccine in scaffold to form a depot).3 

There are many human clinical trials testing different personalized vaccines. A trial conducted  by Moderna and Merck study mRNA-4157, which is in Phase 1.6 The personalized cancer  vaccine will be synthesized using the information from specific mutations in 20 neoepitopes to  create a single mRNA vaccine that will be injected into the patient.6  Ultimately, personalized cancer vaccines indicate to the immune system which antigens should  be targeted, since various malignant tumors have different cell surface antigens.2 The field of  immuno-oncology is ever growing with new personalized vaccine types, delivery vectors and  delivery methods constantly being tested and researched. 

References

1. What is Cancer? [Internet]. Cancer.Net. 2019 [cited 2021 Dec 10]. Available from:  https://www.cancer.net/navigating-cancer-care/cancer-basics/what-cancer

2. What are Cancer Vaccines? [Internet]. Cancer. Net. 2020 [cited 2021 Dec 10]. Available from: https://www.cancer.net/navigating-cancer-care/how-cancertreated/immunotherapyand-vaccines/what-are-cancer-vaccines 

3. Ye T, Li F, Ma G, Wei W. Enhancing therapeutic performance of personalized cancer  vaccine via delivery vectors [Internet]. Advanced Drug Delivery Reviews. Elsevier; 2021  [cited 2021 Dec 10]. Available from:  https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0169409X21003203

4. Kogay R, Schönbach C. Epitope [Internet]. Epitope – an overview | ScienceDirect Topics.  Encyclopedia of Bioinformatics and Computational Biology; 2019 [cited 2021 Dec 10].  Available from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/neuroscience/epitope

5. Augustyn A. T cell [Internet]. Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica, inc.;  2020 [cited 2021Dec10]. Available from: https://www.britannica.com/science/T-cell

6. Moderna, Inc. mRNA Personalized Cancer Vaccines and Immuno-Oncology [Internet].  Moderna. 2021 [cited 2021Dec10]. Available from:  https://www.modernatx.com/pipeline/therapeutic-areas/mrna-personalized cancervaccines-and-immuno-oncology

Categories
Genomics Precision Medicine

How Modern Genomics has Changed our Approach to Cancer Treatment

Alexia Di Martino—McMaster University Molecular Biology & Genetics 2023

Within our chromosomes, there are billions of nucleotides that are all a part of our genome, the entirety of our DNA. Genomics is the study of the genome. A nucleotide sequence, its precise location, and the gene-gene or gene-protein interactions of specific genes are just a few of the findings that can be discovered through genomics.1 The human body is amazing in its ability to use DNA as a blueprint to direct millions of processes in the body. Of course, our DNA also encodes for the billions of other vital cells – like those of the blood, skin, and brain among other organs – that make up our body on a whole. When cell division goes wrong, though, cells may continue to divide uncontrollably and develop growths that we know as cancer.2

There are two families of genes that influence cancer development. The tumour suppressor gene family has a positive effect on cancerous growth when inactivated or improperly functioning. On the other hand, proto-oncogenes cause cancerous growth when they are mutated and active.3

The Human Genome Project was an advancement in sequencing technology that allowed for a decreased cost of sequencing an organism’s entire genome, as well as improved accuracy of the nucleotides and genes that are sequenced.4 Artificial intelligence and computer algorithms are even further advanced technologies that give researchers the ability to automate pattern-recognition within these sequences. From this, links between a gene’s function in the DNA compared to the patient’s phenotypic presentation of a disease can be made.

Tens of thousands of sequenced genetic mutations have been archived through the amazing work of oncology researchers into genetic libraries. One of these libraries is The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA).5 Using a patient’s genome, doctors can refer to these mutated cancer-linked genes to screen patients for susceptibility to a specific cancer.

SOURCE: British Columbia Genome Sciences Centre6

With the knowledge of the patient’s cancerous tumour’s genome, clinicians can identify the exact mechanisms of the cancer cells that causes their proliferation. By comparing the genome of the same patient’s normally functioning ‘germline’ cells to their cancer, researchers can pinpoint the mutated or defective genes responsible for the cancer. They can then recommend better-informed treatments such as pharmaceutical drugs and antibodies targeting certain molecules or pathways of the tumour cells.7 Targeted treatments are much better overall than uninformed therapies. Radiation therapy or stem cell transplants may not be appropriate or as effective in all cases, and can be very expensive. Understanding the genomics of a patient’s cancer could spare them from unnecessarily high medical bills, and more importantly, could have less harmful effects on their body, leading them to being cancer-free more quickly.8

While genomics-driven cancer treatment has been in practice in this way, recent studies into novel gene-editing practices have shown to be promising for the future. In the CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing system, scientists specially design a guide RNA to target a specific DNA fragment. When this guide RNA binds the gene of interest, it associates with a Cas enzyme that cleaves the DNA at that location.9 Scientists may insert a new gene in that cleavage site or perform other modifications depending on their goal.

SOURCE: National Cancer Institute9

Since at least 2017, researchers have been working on using CRISPR-Cas9 on model organisms such as mice and zebrafish in vitro to remove or directly target genes linked to cancer. However, it still poses some challenges when attempting to deliver cancer treatment in vivo.10 These issues are already being studied to create functional and safe delivery of CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing in different tissues in order to accommodate the wide range of cancers seen in patients. As the cancer genome library continues to expand, the CRISPR-Cas9 method of treatment will experience many benefits as well.

The work of biologists in all fields have contributed to this progress – from improved genetic sequencing techniques, to experiments that identify cancer genes, to the assembly of genetic libraries, and everything in between. These advances give every human being a lifesaving advantage in cancer diagnoses. With further research on these gene libraries, scientists will be able to screen the genomes of patients and target cancer-causing genes to inhibit their mechanisms before cancerous cells even get the chance to cause damage.

References

  1. NIH Staff. A brief guide to genomics [Internet]. Genome.gov. 2020 [cited 2022Jan2]. Available from: https://www.genome.gov/about-genomics/fact-sheets/A-Brief-Guide-to-Genomics
  2. Williams GH, Stoeber K. The cell cycle and cancer. The Journal of Pathology. 2011Oct12;226(2):352–64.
  3. Lee EY, Muller WJ. Oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes. Cold Spring Harbor Perspectives in Biology. 2010;2(10).
  4. Hofstatter EW, Bale AE. The promise and pitfalls of Genomics-Driven Cancer Medicine. AMA Journal of Ethics. 2013;15(8):681–6.
  5. NCI Staff. The cancer genome atlas program [Internet]. National Cancer Institute. 2019 [cited 2022Jan2]. Available from: https://www.cancer.gov/about-nci/organization/ccg/research/structural-genomics/tcga/history
  6. BCGSC Staff. Genome sequencing helps prioritize cancer treatment options [Internet]. Genome Sciences Centre. 2020 [cited 2022Jan2]. Available from: https://www.bcgsc.ca/news/genome-sequencing-helps-prioritize-cancer-treatment-options
  7. Mattick JS, Dziadek MA, Terrill BN, Kaplan W, Spigelman AD, Bowling FG, et al. The impact of genomics on the future of Medicine and Health. Medical Journal of Australia. 2014Jul7;201(1):17–20.
  8. Welch JS. Use of whole-genome sequencing to diagnose a cryptic fusion oncogene. JAMA. 2011Apr20;305(15):1577–84.
  9. NCI Staff. How CRISPR is Changing Cancer Research and Treatment [Internet]. National Cancer Institute. 2020 [cited 2022Jan2]. Available from: https://www.cancer.gov/news-events/cancer-currents-blog/2020/crispr-cancer-research-treatment
  10. Zhang H, Qin C, An C, Zheng X, Wen S, Chen W, et al. Application of the CRISPR/cas9-based gene editing technique in basic research, diagnosis, and therapy of cancer. Molecular Cancer. 2021;20(1).
Categories
Precision Medicine

The End of “One-Size-Fits-All” in Medicine

Tisha Parikh (Honours Life Sciences – 2023)

In today’s age, everything from clothing to housing to cars can be customized. We alter things to our liking and do not have to worry about this concept of “one-size-fits-all.” So why should medicine be any different? The emerging concept of precision medicine works to answer this question (1).

In the past, people with the same condition have been prescribed the same drug or therapy with some consideration for factors such as age, sex, weight, or medical history. Despite this, there are still many people for which that medication simply does not work (2). Therefore, we need an approach that specializes treatment for everyone and works by better classifying patients into groups (2).

Precision medicine is much more than matching a blood-type for a transfusion. Precision medicine uses an individual’s genetics, behaviours, and personal environmental factors to create a solution for their healthcare needs (1,3). In medicine, there are always so many external factors that come into play when we prescribe medications or recommend lifestyle changes (3). By gathering information across populations and communities, specific biomarkers can be linked to groups of people, and as a result, be used in targeted treatment or therapy (4). Rather than “personalizing” medicine for any one individual, precision medicine has to do with combining genetics and environments for similar people to find narrowed treatment options that are likely to work and provide optimal benefits (4).

Benefits of such an approach to medicine include higher chances of recovery, as the treatment provided to you has worked for people just like you. Healthcare costs are reduced as treatments are likely to work the first time around (5). Diagnostic equipment use will decline as providers have a reasonable estimate of the issue at hand and can skip directly to specialized technology. A decline in wait times and the process of going from doctor to doctor will follow because your primary provider will have a better idea of where to start and what the problem may be, based on your community or lifestyle. The goal of precision medicine is to get rid of the trial-and-error aspect of medicine to save time, money, and resources. It functions to help people as early as possible in getting treatment and thus recovering (4,5).

SOURCE: EJ Hersom (U.S. Department of Defense)

Precision medicine is attainable because of the rapid data collection available. An attempt to find relationships between biology, lifestyle, and environment has already been put forth by the Obama government starting in 2015 (4,6). All of Us is an initiative under the National Institute of Health (NIH) that is aimed to create a database to find trends in health conditions among people of similar genetics and/or demographics (6). All of Us is a preliminary effort to provide precision medicine to Americans in the near future (6). In addition to efforts set out by the government, the relative speed and low cost associated with genome sequencing today have accelerated the field towards precision medicine (7). Since sequencing now takes a couple of hours instead of a decade, SNPs, epigenetic alterations, and other molecular predispositions can be found and linked to populations (7).

SOURCE: National Institutes of Health

An example that efficiently highlights the potential of this technology is the story of Melanie Nix (8). In 2008, she was diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer brought about by a mutation on the BRCA gene, a remarkably common condition for many African American women (8). However, through all the research done on this cancer in African American women, statistics showed that Melanie’s best chance was with a bilateral mastectomy (8). Now cancer-free, Melanie also believes that precision medicine allows a mode for preserving one’s health through targeted therapy (8).

SOURCE: Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center

It may just be a matter of time until we see this type of precision become a pillar in medicine. The concept of “one-size-fits-all” has been long lost in fashion and lifestyle, and soon may be a staple of all medical practice.

References

  1. Iron Bridge. [Internet]. [Pittsburgh, PA]: Iron Bridge; [date unknown]. How Precision Medicine Will Change Healthcare as We Know it. [cited 2021 December 8]; Available from: https://www.ironbridgecorp.com/blog/how-precision-medicine-will-change-healthcare-as-we-know-it
  2. WebMD [Internet]. [place unknown]: WebMD LLC; [date unknown]. Traditional vs. Precision Medicine: How They Differ[cited 2022 January 8]; Available from: https://www.webmd.com/cancer/precision-vs-traditional-medicine
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. [Internet]. [place unknown]: CDC; [date unknown]. Precision health: Improving health for each of us and all of us. 2020 August 14 [cited 2021 December 8]; Available from:https://www.cdc.gov/genomics/about/precision_med.htm
  4. Thermo Fisher Scientific. [Internet]. [place unknown]: Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc.; [date unknown]. A revolutionary shift in the practice of medicine: How a one-size-fits-all approach is becoming history. [cited 2021 December 8]; Available from: https://www.thermofisher.com/ca/en/home/clinical/precision-medicine/precision-medicine-learning-center/precision-medicine-resource-library/precision-medicine-articles/overview-precision-medicine.html#:~:text=Top-,Applications%20of%20Precision%20medicine,generation%20sequencing%20(NGS)%20technology.
  5. National Institutes of Health. [Internet]. [place unknown]: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; [date unknown]. All of us research program overview. [cited 2021 Dec 8]. Available from:https://allofus.nih.gov/about/all-us-research-program-overview
  6. National Institutes of Health. All of Us. [Internet]. [place unknown]: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; [date unknown] [cited 2021 Dec 8]. Available from: https://allofus.nih.gov/
  7. Gameiro GR, Sinkunas V, Liguori GR, Auler-Júnior JOC. Precision Medicine: Changing the way we think about healthcare. Clinics (Sao Paulo). [Internet]. 2018 [cited 2021 Dec 8];73:723. Available from:https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6251254/ doi:10.6061/clinics/2017/e723.
  8. Evans C. Precision Medicine Is Already Working to Cure Americans: These Are Their Stories. 2015 Jan 30 [cited 2021 Dec 8]. In https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/blog [Internet]. [place unknown]. USAGov. [date unknown]. Available from: https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/blog/2015/01/29/precision-medicine-already-working-cure-americans-these-are-their-stories
Categories
CRISPR Genomics Precision Medicine

The State of Gene Therapies

Nima Karimi — McMaster University Health Sciences 2023

As the quest of mankind for optimal health continues,  different avenues for achieving this goal have emerged. One area, in particular, is looking at the role of genes in the pathophysiology of diseases, and consequently, investigating therapeutics that target those genes. Genes are the basic functional unit of heredity (1); in other words, they determine your height, the color of your eye and hair, and many other biological traits. Importantly, alterations of the genes and genome have been consistently linked to many pathological conditions. Cystic fibrosis (CF), sickle-cell anemia, and Huntington’s disease are some of the more prominent examples of genetic disorders (2). As these conditions have led to increased mortality and reduced quality of life, the scientific community has searched for potential therapeutics; one, in particular, being gene therapy.

The first human studies on gene therapy were done in the early 1990s. One such experiment involved the transfer of genes coding for a specific enzyme, to patients with severe combined immunodeficiency, which showed promising results (3). Since then, research into gene therapy has grown considerably. More recently, some studies have used gene therapy to treat CF, a progressive genetic condition that leads to the loss of lung function with no current treatment (4). Interestingly, the use of gene therapy in CF patients have shown to improve lung capacity (3). With CF being one of the most prevalent genetic disorders, the use of gene therapy shows a promising future for the treatment of this condition.

Now you may be wondering to yourself, how is genetic therapy actually done? Generally speaking, gene therapy involves the identification of cell types and DNA sequences that are defective, and then introducing a new DNA sequence containing the functional genes to offset the effects of the disease-causing genetic alterations (5). There are two different approaches to gene therapy (figure 1), and these involve alterations of different types of cells (6). Somatic gene therapy involves the transfer of DNA to different cells in our body that do not produce sperm or eggs. Given that these changes are not in the germline, any DNA alteration cannot be passed on from parents to their children (6). In contrast, germline gene therapy involves the transfer of DNA to cells that produce eggs or sperms, meaning these changes can be inherited (6).

Additionally, various techniques are being used in gene therapy. One such technique is gene augmentation therapy (6). This technique can be used to treat genetic abnormalities  that stem from mutation, where the gene in question does not produce its functional products (6, 7). As shown in figure 2, this therapy adds the DNA containing a functional gene back into the cell that is defective and ultimately, can reverse the abnormality (8). Another technique involves gene inhibition (6). This technique can be used in pathologies in which the overexpression of certain genes is causing the disease. In this approach, the aim is to introduce a new gene that either inhibits the expression of another faulty gene, or interferes with the activity of the product produced by the faulty gene (9), as shown in figure 3.

Overall, it is clear that gene therapy presents a very promising future for the treatment and management of diseases that were once deemed incurable. Today, there are more than 600 genes and cellular therapies that are being researched (10). In the coming years, one could expect the emergence of many genetic therapies for common and rare conditions. This emergence could both provide treatments for patients that lack therapeutics today, and also improve their overall quality of life.

References

1.         Kitcher P. Genes. The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science. 1982;33(4):337-59.

2.         Conrad Stöppler M. Genetic Diseases (Disorder Definition, Types, and Examples): MedicineNet;  [Available from: https://www.medicinenet.com/genetic_disease/article.htm.

3.         Steffin DHM, Hsieh EM, Rouce RH. Gene Therapy: Current Applications and Future Possibilities. Advances in Pediatrics. 2019;66:37-54.

4.         Davis PB. Cystic Fibrosis Since 1938. American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine. 2006;173(5):475-82.

5.         Verma IM, Naldini L, Kafri T, Miyoshi H, Takahashi M, Blömer U, et al., editors. Gene Therapy: Promises, Problems and Prospects. Genes and Resistance to Disease; 2000 2000//; Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer Berlin Heidelberg.

6.         What is gene therapy? 2021 [Available from: https://www.yourgenome.org/facts/what-is-gene-therapy.

7.         Frazier S. Embryo Gene Editing: Changing Life As We Know It 2019 [Available from: https://the-gist.org/2019/05/embryo-gene-editing-changing-life-as-we-know-it/.

8.         Nóbrega C, Mendonça L, Matos CA. Gene Therapy Strategies: Gene Augmentation. In: Nóbrega C, Mendonça L, Matos CA, editors. A Handbook of Gene and Cell Therapy. Cham: Springer International Publishing; 2020. p. 117-26.

9.         James W. Towards Gene-Inhibition Therapy: A Review of Progress and Prospects in the Field of Antiviral Antisense Nucleic Acids and Ribozymes. Antiviral Chemistry and Chemotherapy. 1991;2(4):191-214.

10.       Dorholt M. We’re on the Verge of a Breakthrough for Gene Therapies 2021 [Available from: https://www.evernorth.com/articles/the-history-and-future-of-gene-therapy.

Categories
AI Precision Medicine

Precision Medicine and AI: the Future is Here

Stephanie Chung—McMaster University Honours Life Sciences 2023

With all the advancements in the scientific community and precision medicine, artificial intelligence (AI) has become a reality. Precision medicine is health care tailored to an individual based upon characteristics such as genes, lifestyle, and environment, according to Hodson (1), a Supplements Editor for Nature Outlook supplements. Artificial intelligence is investigating intelligence agents and systems that are capable of solving complex goals (2). 

Diagram

Description automatically generated

Source: National Aeronautics and Space Administration 

Precision medicine requires using all medical therapies/techniques that have been developed, clinical trials, along with individuals to order to create a customized treatment plan for a patient. Precision medicine has the goal of moving away from a general one-size-fits-all approach and into tailor-made programs for individuals with the same conditions and similar characteristics. In order to do so, extensive data must be collected from a large population. In 2015, Barack Obama announced an initiative to have over a million people enrolled in the All of Us Research Program (3). The resulting data contained personally reported information, digital health technologies, electronic medical records, and sequencing. In the future, the goal of precision medicine is to shift the focus of health care to assessing health, proactive management of disease risks and prevention (3). In order to do so, volunteers (anonymously) are going to be required to allow permission of their health records and genetic codes, as precision medicine requires patient data (1). The issue at hand is getting the public to trust precision medicine researchers with such personal (valuable) information.  

A person looking at a screen

Description automatically generated with low confidence

Source: Corporate Finance Institute

Healthcare is already being influenced and shifted due to artificial intelligence. Some of the achievements made so far are in cancer and cardiovascular diseases (4). This is done through an integrating new and existing learning approaches, along with using the data gathered from artificial intelligence to benefit the patient, as well as advancing the scientific field (4). Artificial intelligence also has the ability to change the world and our everyday lives. Companies may use artificial intelligence to provide benefits for consumers, through wearable devices for health monitoring, smart household products that offer peace of mind, and voice-activated devices for assistance (5). These are all making our daily lives much more convenient and have become part of our daily routines. However, through these devices, data capturing is required, which may result in consumers feeling threatened by an invasion of privacy. This is technology most of us do not understand and in order to feel more secure, there need to be rules and regulations set on what companies can and cannot collect. Companies could also aid in this through actively educating consumers on the benefits of artificial intelligence along with what data they are recording (5). Artificial intelligence may result in less white-collar employees and qualified jobs (6). An example of this trend can be seen with physicians being outperformed with image recognition tools to detect skin cancer (6). However, we must acknowledge that as time passes, the job market is bound to change, however it is not certain where the workforce will shift to in the future (6). Therefore, we must cherish the jobs that cannot be automated, and regulations may need to be in place that require set businesses to allocate a certain amount of money to train the employees of non-automated jobs (6). 

In conclusion, precision medicine and artificial intelligence both require information collected from the public in order to keep advancing. As a society, it is our responsibility to keep up to date with what is being collected from us. It is still uncertain how artificial intelligence will impact our world; however, all we know is that in order to keep it from drastically changing our society, we must be aware of what it does and its limitations. 

References

  1. Hodson R. Precision medicine. Nature [Internet]. 2016 Nov [cited 2021 Feb 16]; 537(S49). Available from: https://www.nature.com/articles/537S49a
  1. Reddy S. Artificial intelligence applications in healthcare delivery. Boca Raton FL: Routledge; 2021. 4 p.  
  1. Ginsburg GS, Phillips KA. Precision medicine: from science to value. Health Aff [Internet]. 2018 May [cited 2021 Feb 16];37(5). Available from: https://www.healthaffairs.org/doi/full/10.1377/hlthaff.2017.1624?casa_token=uO0kuDXET1YAAAAA%3AmKUaknJodu-tBu89b6GoutcdHqOR3aByClgJiJtw62Zon6XW4V-Kk7Kpf15QojuX2VsBCWFKyieShw
  1. Uddin M, Wang Y, Woodbury-Smith M. Artificial intelligence for precision medicine in neurodevelopmental disorders. Npj Digital Medicine. 2019 November [cited 2021 Mar 8]; 2(112). Available from: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41746-019-0191-0
  1. Puntoni S, Reczek RW, Giesler M, Botti S. Consumers and artificial intelligence: an experiential perspective. J Mark [Internet]. 2020 Oct [cited 2021 Feb 16];85(1):131-151. Available from: https://journals-sagepub-com.libaccess.lib.mcmaster.ca/doi/full/10.1177/0022242920953847#articleCitationDownloadContainer
  1. Haenlein M, Kaplan A. A brief history of artificial intelligence: on the past, present, and future of artificial intelligence. Calif Manage Rev [Internet]. 2019 July [cited 2021 Feb 16]; 61(4):5-14. Available from: https://journals-sagepub-com.libaccess.lib.mcmaster.ca/doi/full/10.1177/0008125619864925

Reference list for images: 

  1. National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Precision medicine: announcement of the next workshop for NHHPC members. [Image on internet]. 2017 [update 2017 Aug 6; cited 2021 Feb 16]. Available from: https://www.nasa.gov/feature/precision-medicine
  1. Corporate Finance Institute. Artificial intelligence (AI). [Image on internet]. Available from: https://corporatefinanceinstitute.com/resources/knowledge/other/artificial-intelligence-ai/