Using the results of genetic testing to improve medical treatment

So far, many of my posts on genetic testing have been focused on the availability of testing, quality of testing, and interpreting the results. I'm getting a bit bored--and perhaps you are too--of repeated suggestions that genetic testing available to the public is not yet as useful as headlines often state. If you haven't gotten the message yet, read some of the old posts in this theme.

Today, I want to move on to ways in which scientists and physicians are using the results of targeted genetic testing--that is, working with a specific gene rather than the whole genome--to identify potential therapies for conditions that are not fully responding to current therapies.

Mental health is one of the areas being approached from the genetic viewpoint. An article from the PR Newswires in the US and Europe, May 30, describes how NARSAD researchers work with "specific genes and family traits linked to schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and depression. NARSAD is the world's leading charity dedicated to
mental health research.

. . . presented at NARSAD's 3rd annual Boston Mental Health Research Symposium on May 30 at the Harvard Medical School, the studies are shedding new light on how specific genes contribute to the susceptibility to and pathology of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and depression, some of the most severe, chronic and disabling mental illnesses that collectively affect an estimated 40 million Americans. Coming at a time when some treatments for mental illnesses are a matter of trial and error, these findings are paving the way for the development of novel therapies targeted to specific patients and to specific genes.

Donald C. Goff, MD, director of the Schizophrenia Clinical and Research Program at Massachusetts General Hospital and a leading researcher on the role of genetics in the development of new treatments for schizophrenia, will moderate the symposium. The forum is a free event open to the public.

I'll write about three of these studies in the coming blog entries.

Marie Godfrey, PhD

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