medical sciences

Science|Business: Estonian researchers strive to personalise healthcare

Estonian Genome Center at the University of Tartu. Photo by: Renee Altrov
Estonian Genome Center at the University of Tartu. Photo by: Renee Altrov

If scientists succeed in translating large-scale genomic research into clinical practice, healthcare could improve markedly.

Our health depends on our genes, lifestyles and environment. Yet, for the most part, healthcare systems still treat us with a one-size-fits-all approach. But large-scale genomic research now promises to enable healthcare providers to personalise prevention plans and treatments.

Knowing more about individuals’ genetic traits and lifestyles would cut the cost of healthcare, but also improve the overall health of populations, contends Lili Milani, a research professor and head of the personalised medicine initiative at the Estonian Genome Center, University of Tartu. Healthcare systems should not “wait for people to get sick before we start doing anything,” Milani adds.

To that end, Milani and her team are doing large-scale genome analyses to identify people at high risk for certain diseases, such as breast cancer or hypercholesterolemia. The team at the Genome Center is now working with two major hospitals in Estonia to test and develop treatment guidelines for people who are found to have these mutations. For this to work, “people should be screened from an earlier age,” says Milani, or in the case of people at greater risk of having high blood cholesterol, they should start with treatment earlier. “There is a lot of information in the genome that we are not using in medical practice,” she notes.

Read the full article by Florin Zubașcu in Science|Business.

The publication of this article was funded by the European Regional Development Fund through Estonian Research Council.

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