A Prescription for Success: Drugs & Your Genetics *
AbstractHave you ever known someone who had a bad reaction to a prescription drug? Although pharmaceutical companies test new drugs on a large number of people to make sure the drug works the way it is supposed to, often a small percentage of people respond differently to the drug. A person's genetics plays a large role in determining his or her response to a given drug. Our genes are made up of hundreds to millions of nucleotides of DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid), the genetic code. If just a single nucleotide of DNA has a mutation (change in the DNA sequence), a person might respond differently to a drug. A mutation in one DNA nucleotide is called an SNP, for single-nucleotide polymorphism. When pharmaceutical companies test new drugs on people, they do a genetic screening of known SNPs sprinkled across their genomes (all of the DNA in an organism) to see if people who respond differently to the drug have an SNP, or multiple SNPs, that are not present in the genetics of the people who respond normally. Once pharmaceutical companies identify SNPs that are associated with an abnormal response to the drug, doctors can screen their patients ahead of time to find out how they will respond to a given drug. This rapidly growing medical field is called pharmacogenomics. In this science project, you will investigate how your own genetics may affect your response to different prescription drugs.
23andMe is a company that can sequence your own personal SNPs and predict your response to drugs, based on your SNP profile. There are many other companies that offer similar genetics sequencing services, such as Illumina, PacBio, and deCODE. If you use 23andMe, after you have received your genetics results, under the "My Health" section, click on the "Drug Response" link. Have you, or someone closely related to you, ever taken one of the listed drugs and experienced the predicted response? For any given drug sensitivity test listed, you can click on its name and then the "Technical Report" tab to read about the specific SNPs you have.
How can a little mutation be associated with such a big response? You can investigate how your SNP mutations may be causing your predicted drug response by reading another Science Buddies Project Idea, Drugs and Genetics, and developing your own experimental procedure based on it. Next time you visit your doctor, you can show off your detailed knowledge of how drugs affect your body and possibly prevent a bad experience by telling your doctor which drugs you will probably react poorly to!
Teisha Rowland, PhD, Science Buddies
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Last edit date: 2018-05-05
To do this science project, you can have your genetics sequenced here:
- 23andMe. (n.d). Genetics just got personal. Retrieved September 8, 2011, from http://www.23andme.com
Here are a few websites that will help you start gathering information about genetics, drugs, and pharmacogenomics:
- Genetics Home Reference. (2011, September 12). How Genes Work. Retrieved September 19, 2011, from http://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/handbook/howgeneswork
- University of Utah, Health Sciences. (n.d.). Making SNPs Make Sense. Learn.Genetics. Genetic Science Learning Center. Retrieved December 17, 2014, from http://learn.genetics.utah.edu/content/precision/snips/
- The University of Utah. (n.d.). Learn Genetics. Genetic Science Learning Center. Retrieved August 19, 2011, from http://learn.genetics.utah.edu/
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- Instead of having your own genetics sequenced, you can do this science project by making a free demo account on 23andMe.
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If you like this project, you might enjoy exploring these related careers:
Genetic CounselorMany decisions regarding a person's health depend on knowing the patient's genetic risk of having a disease. Genetic counselors help assess those risks, explain them to patients, and counsel individuals and families about their options. Read more
PhysicianPhysicians work to ease physical and mental suffering due to injury and disease. They diagnose medical conditions and then prescribe or administer appropriate treatments. Physicians also seek to prevent medical problems in their patients by advising preventative care. Ultimately, physicians try to help people live and feel better at every age. Read more
Cytogenetic TechnologistI have black hair, you have blonde hair. I have blue eyes, you have brown eyes. These, and other characteristics, describe what we look like, how tall we are, and even what our personality is, and they are all controlled by our chromosomes. Chromosomes are packages within each of our cells that hold our genes. Our chromosomes also determine if we might inherit any genetic diseases or if birth defects are present. Extracting, testing, and examining the chromosomes from cells is the job of the cytogenetic technologist. Cytogenetic technologists work with physicians to help diagnose and treat diseases and understand human development. This is a career in which you know you will be helping someone every single day. Read more
Bioinformatics ScientistThe human body can be viewed as a machine made up of complex processes. Scientists are working on figuring out how these processes work and on sequencing and correlating the sections of the genome that correspond to the individual processes. (The genome is an organism's complete set of genetic material.) In the course of doing so, they generate large amounts of data. So large, in fact, that to make sense of it, the data must be organized into databases and labeled. This is where bioinformatics scientists step in. They design databases and develop algorithms for processing and analyzing genomic and other biological information. These scientists work at the crossroads of biology and computer science. Read more
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