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Human Genomics and Allied Health

We are at the portal to great discovery and application in medicine that only the imagination can begin the comprehend. Yet that vision is becoming more tangible each day with discoveries and applications of genetics. The human gene...the map for all we are and all we will be in health and disease. When Gregor Mendel began this field of study and published "Experiments on Plant Hybrids", who would have known those 150 short years ago the impact such research would have in the future...our present. [1].

The modern Human Genome Project started in 1990 and the draft sequence of the human genome is now virtually complete [2,3] . How should allied health professionals use this new found understanding and make sense of the future role of genetic information in clinical practice? Clearly as we enter this portal, we must become more facile with and able to discuss with greater understanding specific knowledge of genetics to the deliver the best health care we possibly can. Yet it is "genomics" that we are most concerned (rather than genetics). Genomics - the core functions and interactions of all the genes in the human system. This is where genetics meets clinical medicine. Many of the most common disorders affecting the human race are due to the interactions of multiple genes and environmental factors (multifactorial disorders). Heritable variations in genes contribute not only to rare conditions, but also to a myriad of common health conditions such as renal disease, lung disease, heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer's Disease, and many types of cancer [1]

Patients will begin asking more and more about the application of genomics in their personal health care. Allied health professionals will increasingly be asked to filter, interpret and answer questions regarding genetic tests, disease risk, and similar applications of the information we are acquiring now. As we move forward in this area of health care delivery and understand the implications of the impact of genomics, it is imperative that we integrate into our training and continuing education programs the necessary knowledge, skills and attitudes for allied health professionals to use in clinical practice.

All humans have a unique genome (except perhaps identical twins). It is becoming more likely that nearly all human genes are capable of causing disease if they are altered enough. As the gene pool and the environment collide, so there is disease, both common and uncommon. It will become as important as hand washing, that allied health professionals understand and be able to apply the concepts of the genomics in their delivery of health care services. You've heard about the research...prepare to use it in the clinic!

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