Applying genomics can enable deeper understanding of disease diagnosis, treatment, and prevention

March 15, 2006

Chicago?We are living and working in a revolutionary time for biomedical research, according to Francis S. Collins, MD, PhD. He shared his insights on how advances in genomics can be applied to the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of eye disease during the opening session of the American Academy of Ophthalmology annual meeting here.

Chicago-We are living and working in a revolutionary time for biomedical research, according to Francis S. Collins, MD, PhD. He shared his insights on how advances in genomics can be applied to the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of eye disease during the opening session of the American Academy of Ophthalmology annual meeting here.

"The opportunities for revolutionizing clinical applications in a whole host of fields-especially ophthalmology-are unprecedented," Dr. Collins said.

As director of the National Human Genome Research Institute, Dr. Collins led a multidisciplinary, international cross-section of the scientific community to complete the Human Genome Project. With a database of genomes compiled, Dr. Collins posed the question: "What's next?"

In addition to identifying some 400 eye diseases with hereditary components, genes have already been identified for complex traits, those that are not inherited in a simple form but that clearly have heritable factors involved, such as diabetes, and the common causes of cataracts or age-related macular degeneration.

With such powerful information in hand, matters of ethics cannot be ignored. Genetic nondiscrimination has become a very hot issue, he said.

"You didn't get to pick your DNA, it shouldn't be used against you," Dr. Collins said. To that end, Dr. Collins reported that The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2005 has already passed the Senate, and that H.R.1227 is now before the House of Representatives.