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Genetic Map Is Heralded as Medical Tool

From Reuters

The first published map of human genetic differences offers a major advance toward truly personalized medicine, from predicting who will get what disease to finding ways of choosing the best drug for a patient, scientists said Thursday.

The map, published Thursday, identifies more than 1.5 million tiny genetic differences among 71 people, said the team at Perlegen Sciences Inc., a spinoff of Santa Clara, Calif.-based gene chip maker Affymetrix Inc.

It is enough to find some of the most common genetic variations involved in disease, said David Cox, Perlegen’s chief scientific officer.

“This project sets a new milestone in the search for genetic elements linked to complex genetic diseases such as Alzheimer’s, cancer and multiple sclerosis,” he said.

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The idea is not to find one or two “disease genes,” but to look for patterns that can account for how a person may respond to specific high-blood-pressure drugs, for instance, Cox and his colleagues report in today’s issue of the journal Science.

“It’s kind of like being a matchmaker,” Cox said during a news conference at the annual meeting of the American Assn. for the Advancement of Science. Eventually, he hopes, individual doctors will be able to consult such a map to determine which treatment to prescribe for a patient.

It would build on current policy at the Food and Drug Administration, said Dr. Lawrence Lesko, an FDA expert in pharmacogenomics -- the field of using genetic patterns to predict drug reactions.

A map such as Perlegen’s might be the first step toward screening out people who are likely to be harmed by a certain drug, Lesko said.

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To make the map, Perlegen worked with researchers at the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology at UC San Diego and the International Computer Science Institute at UC Berkeley.


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