Reconnecting Practicing Hygienists with the Nation's Leading Educators and Researchers.

Precision Medicine

You could make a resolution to join 1 million fellow citizens to help determine the future of medicine and oral health care.

Chances are you’ve made some resolutions for the new year. It seems we all try to improve our habits in the quest of becoming more healthy after the holiday season ends. After all, overindulgence seems to be as much a part of holiday gatherings as sharing gifts! What if, along with making those resolutions, we had the ability to seek preventive and therapeutic options tailored specifically for us? These therapies would consider our unique genetic makeup, our own distinct lifestyles, and the variability of our environments. It may sound far-fetched, but medical science is currently working on such treatments. The comprehensive name for this initiative is “precision medicine,” and while the concept has been discussed for several years, a focused initiative began recently.

In 2016, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) launched its Precision Medicine Initiative (PMI) to develop policies, technologies, and research that would bring individualized care to the forefront. An integral part of the PMI is the “All of Us” research program. According to the NIH website, this program “seeks to extend precision medicine to all diseases by building a national research cohort of 1 million or more United States participants.”1

The possibility of a national database that would help drive research and product development in the direction of individualized care is exciting. The information collected through the “All of Us” program could be used for all types of health care research and would consider how individual differences in genetics, lifestyle, and environment impact disease incidence and progression. And the research using this information could be used to develop more efficient and effective therapies. Think of the possibilities—not just for medicine but for oral health care as well. In fact, Harold Slavkin, DDS, wrote about such care in the October 2017 issue of Dimensions of Dental Hygiene. Titled, “Targeting Treatment to Patient Needs,” the article discusses how the precision medicine concept can be used to prevent and treat periodontal conditions and more.

Enrollment in the “All of Us” program is not yet open. The NIH is still in the early stages of creating the features, tools, and resources for participants. The program has enrolled beta testers and while full, you can sign up to receive information when beta testing ends. At that point, NIH will send you an email to enroll in the program. Visit joinallofus.org to stay up-to-date on news and enrollment information.

Just think, you could make a resolution to join 1 million fellow citizens to help determine the future of medicine and oral health care. As we are all different in many ways, the data collected will help researchers learn more about diseases and treatments. In the process, you could become better informed about your own health and how to tailor care especially for you. Sounds like a great reason to say “cheers to a new year!”

 Jill Rethman, RDH, BA
     Editor in Chief
 
  jrethman@belmontpublications.com

REFERENCE

  1. National Institutes of Health. All of Us Research Program FAQ. Available at: allofus.nih.gov/about/programfaq. Accessed December 18, 2017.

From Dimensions of Dental HygieneJanuary 2018;16(01):6. 

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