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'Desk-top' machine for personalised prescriptions

10 October 2005
By BioNews
Appeared in BioNews 329

Japanese companies have built a desk-top machine that allows doctors to check their patients' DNA before writing a prescription, the journal Nature reports. The device, which they say will be on sale for five million yen (£25,000) in a year's time, uses a single drop of blood and delivers results in less than an hour. The news comes shortly after the UK's Royal Society published a report claiming that although 'personalised medicines' have a promising future, it will be at least another 15-20 years before their use is widespread.

Pharmacogenetics - the tailoring of medicines to a person's genetic make-up - has often been touted as the future of healthcare, but some scientists have expressed reservations about whether such technology will ever live up to the hype, what it might cost, and how it would impact on healthcare systems.

The Japanese machine was developed by genomics researchers at the Institute of Chemical and Physical Research (RIKEN), printing company Toppan and scientific equipment firm Shimadzu. Takaaki Sato of Shimadzu told Nature that the key component of the device is a 'chip' that can analyse DNA directly from a blood sample, without the need for purification. It will initially be used to look for variations in genes that affect a person's response to an antibody called irinotecan - which can cause hearing loss in some patients - and to the commonly used drug warfarin.

Millions of people take warfarin to prevent harmful blood clots after a heart attack, stroke or major surgery. But the proper dose can vary greatly between individuals, in a way that is difficult to predict. Too high a dose can cause excessive bleeding in some people, while in others, too little a dose could allow dangerous blood clots to form. Currently, doctors use information such as a patient's sex, age, weight and medical history to set the dose, a process that can take months to get exactly right. A genetic test bcould help speed up this process. However, UK geneticist David Weatherall, who worked on the Royal Society report, is sceptical, saying that at least two different genes are involved in processing warfarin - a process that is not well understood.

Weatherall says that the only way to solve these problems is to test each drug independently in large populations monitored over several years. 'There is still a huge gap between the scientists who do this kind of work and its application for practical purposes', he said. Sato agrees that at the moment, the machine will prove most useful for research. But he says that given the response so far, there is 'no way' that 15 years will pass before doctors are using such devices for day-to-day diagnosis and treatment.

Japan jumps towards personalized medicine
Nature |  6 October 2005
20 June 2011 - by Ruth Pidsley 
US scientists have reported possibly the first example of using one person's genetic sequence to refine a diagnosis and provide personalised medical treatment. Whole-genome sequencing (WGS) helped pinpoint defects in the DNA of 14-year-old fraternal twins Noah and Alexis Beery causing their rare neurological condition, dopamine-responsive dystonia (DRD)...
22 September 2005 - by BioNews 
The UK's Royal Society has published a report on the potential of pharmacogenetics - drug treatments tailored to a person's genetic make-up - following a year-long investigation into the subject. It concludes that although 'personalised medicines' have a promising future, it will be at least another 15-20 years before their use...
12 June 2005 - by BioNews 
The dose of the anti-blood clotting drug warfarin required by a patient is partly down to their genetic make-up, US researchers say. A team of scientists based at the University of Washington have shown that variations in a gene known as VKORC1 affect a person's response to warfarin. The scientists...
21 September 2004 - by BioNews 
The UK's Royal Society is launching a year-long investigation into the potential of pharmacogenetics: drug treatments tailored to a person's genetic make-up. The study, headed by geneticist Sir David Weatherall, will look at when and if 'personalised medicine' will become a reality. It will also assess whether healthcare providers in...
10 September 2004 - by BioNews 
A genetic test that helps predict how people will react to certain medicines has been approved for sale in the European Union, Swiss firm Roche Diagnostics has announced. The test, called the AmpliChip CYP450, detects variations in two genes that make key liver enzymes. Variations in the activity of these...
23 June 2004 - by BioNews 
Research into pharmacogenetics - the use of genetic tests to match medicines to a person's genetic make-up - is to receive £4 million of funding, Health Minister Lord Warner announced last week. The cash will go to six different research projects, which include studies on medicines used to prevent blood clots, epilepsy...
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