Every discipline has an entry level vocabulary that creates an access barrier to the uninitiated. It can be made even more difficult when you add acronyms like iPOP, the one I’m trying to become comfortable with lately — integrative personal omics profile.

The suffixes "–ome" and "–omics" have created new terms like genome/genomics, proteome/proteomics and metabolome/metabolomics. If you remember your high school biology class at all "Biome" should ring a bell. "Ome" refers to ‘all’ or ‘whole’, a desert or rain forest biome for instance would include all the plants and animals etc in that biological region.

So the human genome is about all the genes that make up a human being while genomics has to do with analyzing the interactions of the genes involved in a genome. In studying the genome we can identify specific genes and their sequences but genomics would refer to how they are interacting with each other. The same would apply to proteins and cellular metabolites.

What all this boils down to is the introduction of new, very sophisticated biological markers (biomarkers) to medicine’s analysis arsenal. Body temperature and blood pressure are biomarkers that we are all familiar with but gene expression microarrays and DNA, RNA and protein sequence analysis are probably not on your radar screen.

These and other complex diagnostic tools potentially open the door to the development of omics-based tests that will improve treatment efficacy and help patients avoid adverse therapeutic side effects. These include better diagnosis, prognosis and prediction of response to therapy tools as well as better screening, risk assessment, pharmacogenetics, and patient monitoring during and after treatment.

Over a decade ago there was plenty of hype and rosy predictions about the sequencing of the human genome with little to show for the several billion dollars spent. We are finally beginning to realize the clinical value of that public and private money. The following PDF from The National Academies Press, Evolution of Translational Omics: Lessons Learned and the Path Forward is an excellent introduction to how Omics and personalized medicine is changing the face of medicine.

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