Precision Medicine and Neurodegenerative Disease
An emergent issue for healthcare systems is the rapidly increasing number of neurodegenerative diseases along with the exponentially increasing aging population. Advancements in biomedical research and informatics have been extremely important for understanding how genes, epigenetic influences, aging, diet, drugs, and the environment affect health and disease. One such development that may provide a crucial understanding of the brain and neurodegenerative diseases is precision medicine. Precision medicine is a form of medicine that uses information about a person’s genes or proteins to prevent, diagnose, and treat disease. Precision medicine, thus, supports a customized healthcare system, tailored to each patient instead of a one-solution-treats-all approach.
One result of the growing aging population is the increased number of neurodegenerative disorders, and, thus, a higher mortality rate. As a result, hospitalizations, care assistance, and costs for treatment become a larger problem for patients and doctors. The average duration of these neurodegenerative disorders ranges from 2-10 years, during which special care and therapies are required for patients. This creates an overwhelming burden for the patient and the patient’s family. The overall cost for treating patients suffering from neurodegenerative diseases is approximately $130 billion each year . This becomes an even more pertinent concern as the population of the aging population increases. To date, about 16% of people are at least 65 years old in Europe, and this statistic is projected to increase to 25% (9% increase) by 2030, suggesting an increase in cases of neurodegenerative disorders. These disorders include a large number of age-related conditions characterized by loss or dysfunction of neurons in specific areas of the brain and/or spinal cord. Such conditions tend to result in cognitive impairments, a decline in speech, and mobility issues. Among these conditions, dementias (including Parkinson’s Disease and Alzheimer’s Disease) are most common, affecting approximately 7 million people in Europe. Even more alarming, this statistic is projected to double by 2040 .
In an effort to improve the treatment and prevention of neurodegenerative disorders, precision medicine may serve as a new—and even better—method of treatment. Neurodegenerative pathologies do not always reveal similarities from one patient to another—even in patients with the same disease. Thus, it may not be beneficial to treat patients with one drug that treats all symptoms of a particular condition, especially if those symptoms are not affecting the individual . In this way, precision medicine could serve as a useful tool to identify preclinical stages of disorders, make accurate diagnoses, and provide optimal treatments tailored to the patient rather than traditional treatments used at later stages of treatments .
Precision medicine also provides a major advantage when looking at the accumulation of knowledge. Researchers and doctors can learn from studying and targeting neurodegenerative disorders on a genetic basis. Precision medicine poses the possibility of creating a web-based network for neurodegenerative disorders that is critical for creating effective medicines for patients across specialized centers . A terrific and successful example of a multi-disciplinary, web-based site is the Italian IRCSS Network of Neuroscience and Neurorehabilitation . The main goal of this site is to focus on standardizing and enhancing patient care in the health system and creating therapeutic methods to treat neurodegenerative disorders.
The problem of neurodegenerative diseases becomes even more emergent as the population ages. Furthermore, the brain is an intricate organ with complex processes and, thus, it gives rise to complicated neurologic disorders. However, precision medicine is a promising tool that we should adopt in order to precisely assess and manage these disorders. Though there is still much to learn about precision, its implications could revolutionize treatment for neurodegenerative disorders.
Edited by: Priya Meesa
Graphic Designed by: Kidest Wolde
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