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Pharmacogenetics explained by Asperio Labs © 2015 Asperio Labs
Pharmacogenetics is the study of how genes affect a person's response to drugs. This relatively new field allows us to combine pharmacology and genomics to develop effective and safe medication dosages which are specific to an individual's DNA makeup. At present there are over 770,000 injuries or deaths due to drug reactions per year in the United States. These biochemical pathways to breakdown drugs are created by our genes. Some of us have "mutations" which we call  Polymorphisms  (SNP's) which either do not allow us to break down the drug or which break down the drug too fast, so it becomes less effective.

We now have companies that can analyze your DNA and see which of your biochemical pathways may be impaired, because you have a genetic polymorphism. They then cross-reference this with all the drugs that require that pathway to break them down.

The laboratories give us a beautiful spreadsheet-like chart that shows us which drugs your body is programmed to be able to break down in the normal fashion and which drugs you will not be able to break down in the normal fashion.

Costs and Technologies

Interview with the CEO of Asperio © 2015 Asperio Labs
A disposable DNA sequencing device, which will retail for under $900 has recently been announced. Likewise, companies like deCODENavigenics and 23andMe offer genome scans. They provide customers with a write-up of individual risk for various traits and diseases and testing for 500,000 known SNPs. Costs range from $995 to $2500 and include updates with new data from studies as they become available. The more expensive packages even included a telephone session with a genetics counselor to discuss the results.

Ethical issues

There are three main ethical issues that have risen from pharmacogenetics. First, would there be a type equity at both drug development and the accessibility to tests. [23]  The concern of accessibility to the test is whether it is going to be available directly to patients via the internet, or over the counter. The second concern regards the confidentiality of storage and usage of genetic information. [24] Thirdly, would patients have the control over being tested.

Further readings

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About the author

View full profile Jérôme Lutz from Berlin & Munich, Germany

I like to share the great things I discover daily while researching and working in the field of Synthetic Biology.

When I talk to people about it, they often refer to Science Fiction. However, when I send them links to this wiki and they read through those pages, they start understanding that this is real and it's happening right now.