The day you are born, your birth certificate carries a detailed genetic profile showing your predisposition to allergies and certain diseases, your health risks and information useful to minimise your chances of falling sick. With all this information so early on, you and your health professional can take steps to minimise the effects of disease, before age-related illnesses begin to develop 60 years on.
In the meantime, if you do fall sick, doctors can better diagnose and tailor treatment and drugs to your exact genetic profile, with a greater chance of success. The era of genetic medicine is upon us.
Yet problems remain before the genetic revolution can move from research labs to patient benefit. The human genome is immensely complicated, and extrapolating clinical practice from genetic data is fraught with problems. Medical doctors and molecular scientists talk a different language; their expertise has a different focus and their computers can even use incompatible databases.
Which explains why one project team is working on this very problem. The partners in INFOBIOMED are attempting to link biological informatics with medical informatics, to match observed laboratory phenomena with clinical outcomes.
"Bioinformatics works mainly with data on a molecular and DNA level, while medical practice is more centred on 'higher' data levels for human organs or tissues. There's a big gulf between the two," notes project manager Carlos Diaz of Fundació IMIM in Barcelona. "We want these two information systems to develop a common ground between what happens in your DNA and what happens with disease."
INFOBIOMED has already had a huge impact since its beginnings in 2004. The doctors, scientists and IT experts involved in the project are now talking a common language and working on shared problems, something which is a major step forward.
The project also put students from different disciplines into a house together during one week, split them into teams and gave them problems to work on jointly. "It was like a scientific 'Big Brother', as all the prejudice and barriers posed by different languages and traditions were exposed", he remarks.
But that's not the most difficult problem. Some diseases can be associated in a relatively simple way with a specific genetic anomaly. But most diseases depend upon a huge variety of genes, plus many other factors – lifestyle, environment, even chance. The problem of understanding the mechanisms of disease is extremely complex.
"It is difficult to extrapolate clinical practice from genetic information, but we hope to provide a feedback loop, through the combined informatics systems – so-called 'biomedical informatics' – so that doctors and geneticists can find links between genomics and medical outcomes," notes Diaz.
Over time this will develop a picture of the relationship between the two. It could also mean that drugs are tailored specifically to individual patients, or groups of patients, with greater odds on a successful outcome.
But that is for the future. Yet INFOBIOMED has already taken some major steps toward that horizon. It has produced reports on the state-of-the-art in biomedical informatics, and developed databases and software that link both bioinformatics and medical informatics in a meaningful way.
The project partners have also developed pilot applications in four medical areas: pharmaco-informatics, genomics and infection, genomics and chronic inflammation, and genomics and hereditary colon cancer.
"Using advanced biomedical informatics approaches, the pharmaco-informatics study found a previously unsuspected bio-molecule that could play a key role in the development of the Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, a painful disorder affecting one or more extremities of the body, that ultimately can even lead to amputation. The results obtained could serve as basis for new drug treatments, and could also have a relationship with other inflammatory diseases," says Diaz. "The method followed in the research could be applied to other complex diseases as well."
INFOBIOMED ends in July 2007, but Diaz hopes they will find a way to continue the work. "We're currently looking at options – we could for example start a professional society to run a journal, with regular meetings to move biomedical informatics forward," he says.
The team is also interested to hear from companies, investors or partners who have an interest in the area. Many organisations could find the project results useful – health, pharma or informatics companies, or institutes with specialist departments in this field.
As an added bonus, in the very long term genetic medicine could mean cheap healthcare, as prevention begins to trump cure. The era of molecular genetic medicine could be just over the horizon.Contact:
Jernett Karensen | alfa
Hot cars can hit deadly temperatures in as little as one hour
24.05.2018 | Arizona State University
3D images of cancer cells in the body: Medical physicists from Halle present new method
16.05.2018 | Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg
The more electronics steer, accelerate and brake cars, the more important it is to protect them against cyber-attacks. That is why 15 partners from industry and academia will work together over the next three years on new approaches to IT security in self-driving cars. The joint project goes by the name Security For Connected, Autonomous Cars (SecForCARs) and has funding of €7.2 million from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. Infineon is leading the project.
Vehicles already offer diverse communication interfaces and more and more automated functions, such as distance and lane-keeping assist systems. At the same...
A research team led by physicists at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has developed molecular nanoswitches that can be toggled between two structurally different states using an applied voltage. They can serve as the basis for a pioneering class of devices that could replace silicon-based components with organic molecules.
The development of new electronic technologies drives the incessant reduction of functional component sizes. In the context of an international collaborative...
At the LASYS 2018, from June 5th to 7th, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) will be showcasing processes for the laser material processing of tomorrow in hall 4 at stand 4E75. With blown bomb shells the LZH will present first results of a research project on civil security.
At this year's LASYS, the LZH will exhibit light-based processes such as cutting, welding, ablation and structuring as well as additive manufacturing for...
There are videos on the internet that can make one marvel at technology. For example, a smartphone is casually bent around the arm or a thin-film display is rolled in all directions and with almost every diameter. From the user's point of view, this looks fantastic. From a professional point of view, however, the question arises: Is that already possible?
At Display Week 2018, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP will be demonstrating today’s technological possibilities and...
So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics
Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...
25.05.2018 | Event News
02.05.2018 | Event News
13.04.2018 | Event News
25.05.2018 | Event News
25.05.2018 | Machine Engineering
25.05.2018 | Life Sciences