Magazine article Science News

Me and My Metabolism: Personalized Medicine Takes New Direction

Magazine article Science News

Me and My Metabolism: Personalized Medicine Takes New Direction

Article excerpt

Physicians may someday predict a drug's toxic effects in individual patients on the basis of their metabolisms, a proof-of-principle study in rats suggests. The finding could lead to a major shift in expectations for personalized medicine, which scientists generally have presumed would center on genetics.

Since people can vary widely in how they react to a particular medication type or dosage, many doctors consider personalized treatment to be one of medicine's loftiest goals. Efforts to reach this end have focused mostly on pharmacogenomics, the study of how a person's unique pattern of genes affects how he or she responds to any given drug.

However, notes biochemist Jeremy K. Nicholson of Imperial College London, genes can tell only so much about a body's functions. Other factors, such as age, weight, emotional state, and gut bacteria, can have an enormous influence on how a patient processes medications. "Things that affect our lives quite a lot aren't reflected in our genomes," says Nicholson.

Since these factors influence metabolism, he and his colleagues wondered whether they could use individuals' metabolic profiles before they receive medication to predict how patients might react to drugs. The scientists have named this approach pharmaco-metabonomics.

To test their idea, Nicholson's team worked with 75 rats that belonged to an inbred strain and thus had closely matching genomes. The scientists began their work by collecting urine from all the animals. The researchers then ran all the samples through a machine that measured hundreds of molecules. …

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