Pharmacogenomics is the study of how a person’s DNA responds to drugs. This field (known as precision medicine) combines genomics (the study of genes and their functions) and pharmacology (the science of drugs), allowing for the development of effective and safe medication.

Most drugs that are available on the public market today are a “one size fits all” drug, but like most other things, they won’t all work in the same way for everyone and it’s difficult to know who will suffer from adverse side effects. The study of pharmacogenomics is growing and there are ongoing approaches that are being studied and tested in clinical trials. Researchers are learning how differences in genes can affect a body’s response to certain medications. These differences in DNA will be studied to predict whether a medication will work well with a particular person and which dose will help prevent serious drug reactions.

Pharmacogenomics can improve your health by helping you to be aware of whether a drug is more likely to benefit you and be safe for you to take. In the future, pharmacogenetics will be used to develop specially tailored drugs to treat a wide range of health problems including cancer, asthma, cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer's disease, resulting in more effective treatments.

How Does Pharmacogenomics Work?

Medication can interact with your body in different ways, depending on the drug and where it acts in your body. Your body breaks down drugs and gets them to the intended area. A person’s DNA can affect these steps and influence how they respond to the drug.

These interactions include:

Drug receptors: Some medications need to attach to proteins on the surface of cells (known as receptors) to be effective. DNA determines the type of receptors a person has and how many, which can have an impact on a person’s reaction to a drug.

Drug uptake: Some medications need to be actively absorbed into the tissues and cells in which they act. Genes can affect the uptake of certain drugs. A decreased uptake can cause the drug to be ineffective and to build up in other parts of the body which can cause problems down the line. DNA can also have an impact on how quickly some drugs leave the cells. If they leave the cells too fast, they may not have time to work and be effective.

Drug breakdown: DNA can determine how quickly a person’s body breaks down a drug. If a drug is broken down faster, it means the drug leaves your body faster and a person might need a higher dosage or a different medication altogether. On the other hand, if a drug breaks down more slowly, a person might need less of the drug.

Targeted drug development: The impact pharmacogenomics has on drug development focuses on the underlying cause of the disease being studied instead of just treating the symptoms. Some diseases are caused by specific mutations in a gene. That same gene can mutate in various ways that end up having different effects. Some of these changes can result in a protein that does not function properly, while others may mean that the protein is not made at all. Medication can be created based on how the mutation affects the protein and these drugs will only be effective when there’s a certain type of mutation.

What Roles Do Genetics Play in How Drugs Work?

Not only do genes determine our eye and hair colour, but they also affect how our bodies respond to medicine.

Genes are instructions for creating protein molecules and people have different versions of the same gene. Every version of that gene has a slightly different DNA sequence and some of these variants are linked to specific diseases.

Researchers are aware that certain proteins affect how drugs work and pharmacogenomics studies genes to find these proteins. These proteins include liver enzymes that have a chemical effect on drugs. These chemical changes can cause the drugs to be more or less effective. Even small variations in the genes for these liver enzymes can impact a drug’s effectiveness and safety.

Can Pharmacogenomics be Used to Develop Drugs?

The short answer is yes. Pharmacogenomic research will not only improve the use of existing drugs, but it will also lead to the development of new drugs. The goal is to always produce new drugs that are effective and safe (no adverse side effects).

Researchers are using genomic research to develop drugs that are aimed at patients who have specific genetic profiles. Researchers are also utilising pharmacogenomic tools to find medications that target specific cellular and molecular pathways found in certain diseases.

Pharmacogenomics may also bring back drugs that were abandoned during the development process.

How Does Pharmacogenomics Have an Impact On Drug Design, Development and Prescribing Guidelines?

Drug companies are using pharmacogenomics to develop and market medication for patients with specific genetic profiles. This can speed up the drug’s development process

Scientists can also identify genes that cause adverse effects enabling doctors to prescribe drugs to people who do not have those genes. This allows patients to receive lifesaving medication that may have otherwise been banned because it poses a risk to other people.

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