New Mayo Clinic individualized medicine leader on a quest to bring cutting-edge medicine to all

As a pulmonologist and genomic scientist, Victor Ortega, M.D., Ph.D., is main a cost to breathe new life into precision medicine developments. His mission is rooted in a deep dedication to health equities and impressed by his grandmother. 

“My grandmother died of asthma, and that should not have happened. She was Puerto Rican like me, and Puerto Ricans have the highest severity and frequency of asthma of any ethnic group in the world,” Dr. Ortega says. “They also represent less than 1% of people in genetic studies. So, I’ve made it a life mission to develop cures and diagnostics for people like my grandma, and for all people.” 

Predicting illness dangers: Polygenic Risk Scores

Victor Ortega, M.D., Ph.D.
Victor Ortega, M.D., Ph.D.

In his new function because the affiliate director for the Mayo Clinic Center for Individualized Medicine in Arizona, Dr. Ortega is guiding his workforce towards a transformative way forward for healthcare, the place every person’s distinctive DNA profile could function a customized information to their health and well-being. 

“Imagine knowing your genetic predisposition for having a heart attack in your 50s, or if you’re in the top 5% of the population for the risk of cancer or diabetes. With this knowledge, you could make informed lifestyle choices and receive screenings to mitigate that risk,” Dr. Ortega says. 

Previously inconceivable, he says customized health forecasts, derived from so-called polygenic danger scores, are doable due to new and complex genome sequencing applied sciences. The complicated scores are compiled from a mixture of knowledge from hundreds of a person’s DNA variants. The information has the potential to predict illness dangers, similar to coronary heart illness, diabetes, bronchial asthma, and particular cancers.  

Dr. Ortega says getting to the purpose the place all folks know their polygenic danger scores would require a strong basis of “omics” analysis and datasets, cutting-edge applied sciences and additional discoveries of gene-disease hyperlinks — all of that are inside his workforce’s experience and capabilities. 

Omics is an rising multidisciplinary area of organic sciences that encompasses genomics, proteomics, epigenomics, transcriptomics, metabolomics and extra.  

“It’s going to take considerable work and planning, but it really is the way of the future,” he says.  

Advancing omics past analysis labs

In the shorter time period, Dr. Ortega plans to transition extra omics discoveries from analysis labs to the clinic. Omics information can assist establish the molecular culprits driving a person’s illness, in addition to biomarkers that may lead to the event of focused therapies and diagnostics. 

Recent omics discoveries at Mayo Clinic’s Center for Individualized Medicine have enabled scientists to predict antidepressant response in folks with depression and uncover a potential therapeutic strategy for bone marrow most cancers. Scientists have additionally used omics to pinpoint genetic variations that probably improve the danger for extreme COVID-19, uncover potential clues for stopping and treating gliomas and unravel the genetic thriller of a rare neurodevelopmental disorder.   

Expanding genomic testing throughout illnesses

Drawing from his years of in depth medical expertise in treating sufferers with extreme respiratory sicknesses, Dr. Ortega can be working to broaden genomic testing to a broader set of illnesses. He highlights the middle’s collaborative Program for Rare and Undiagnosed Diseases as an efficient mannequin that he hopes to amplify.  

The Program for Rare and Undiagnosed Diseases proactively engages healthcare groups throughout Mayo’s medical follow to conduct focused genomic testing for sufferers with a suspected uncommon genetic illness. He says increasing this technique to extra illnesses will assist construct collaborations throughout Mayo and educate extra clinicians on genomics. It may guarantee the best genomic sequencing exams are given to sufferers, in the end bettering affected person care and outcomes.   

He factors to cystic fibrosis, a genetic respiratory dysfunction, for example of how genetic misconceptions and improper testing methods can negatively have an effect on various populations.  

“Clinicians might overlook genetic tests for cystic fibrosis in minority groups because of a misconception that cystic fibrosis is most prevalent in people of European white ancestry,” he says. “However, the disease can affect various ethnic populations with distinct variants, so they also may order the wrong test.”  

Clearing the trail to cutting-edge medicine for all

Dr. Ortega emphasizes the significance of collaborations and information sharing to speed up medical discoveries and enhance health fairness. His dedication to collaborations extends past the partitions of Mayo Clinic to different consortiums that share profound commitments to enhancing variety. 

“The future of healthcare is happening right now,” Dr. Ortega says. “But it’s much bigger than genomics advancements and innovations. It’s about making sure cutting-edge medicine is accessible to every person.” 

This article first appeared on the blog of the Mayo Clinic Center for Individualized Medicine.

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