Mayo Illinois Alliance

Individualized Medicine

Today, we have the capacity to identify the individual human differently than ever before. Looking back 50 years ago, scientists first described DNA. Twenty years ago, we learned to do gene expression profiling. In the last ten years, we've learned about micro RNAs. Who could have anticipated any of these discoveries? The tools in individualized medicine have continued to advance rapidly in the last few years. Now--almost on a weekly basis--we are discovering more about the tools available to us. The way we're trying to accomplish individualized medicine is by taking advantage of the genetic differences among people.

The reality is that nearly every cell in a body has the same DNA. And DNA sequence is very similar between different individuals. So your DNA sequence and my DNA sequence are essentially identical, but about one in every thousand letters of the DNA code, you'll have one letter and I'll have a different letter. And that doesn't seem like a lot, but when you're talking about one out of a thousand against a background of six billion again, that's 60 million spots where we differ. That can make a big difference in terms of health, response to treatment and susceptibility to different diseases.

Individualized Medicine at Mayo Clinic embraces technology for research but also for data gathering for clinical purposes, literally across the entire spectrum of medicine. Individualized medicine is defined as the medicine of human and disease variation and individualized medical need.

The big challenge now is how do we take this complex information and use it? It requires experts in computer science. We have to have bioinformatics and experts in functional genomics, experts in statistical genetics and interdisciplinary research teams. We must build this grid of capabilities, this community of expertise so that we can marry that expertise with clinical practice to complete the picture.

→ Mayo Center for Individualized Medicine