Ever since the sequencing of the human genome the promise of personalized medicine has been at the forefront of Western Medicine. The promise is getting ever closer as the cost of doing sequencing becomes less and less expensive. But still it requires a great deal of time and resources and is only used in extreme cases where the patient’s situation is life-threatening and the cause of their disease and how to treat it is unknown.
I believe that we will eventually get to the point where personalized medicine will be more the norm and we will know which medications and treatments are right for individuals. But we still have a long way to go.
Even in diseases that we feel we understand, one treatment or medication does not prove beneficial for everyone and currently the only way to find out what works for the individual is by trial and error.
A faster route to personalized medicine lies in understanding and embracing the medical philosophy of the East where the concept is that people are not all alike and that treatment should always take into account the constitutional makeup of the individual. This is the case with Indian Ayurveda, Five Element and some other styles of Chinese Acupuncture (not TCM), and Korean Sasang Constitutional Medicine (SCM).
In these systems, personalized medicine, through constitution and pulse reading, dates back centuries. In addition, SCM is very economical to implement. It is so well developed and economical, in fact, that someone doesn’t need to be seriously ill to employ it. Knowing someone’s constitution can be used to promote health, as well as prevent and cure diseases using herbs and diet.
Recent studies in Korea, looking for genetic markers for certain diseases, have shown that some markers are only seen in one of the four Sasang Constitutions. This indicates that if we know a person’s constitution we will not need to use genetic sequencing to screen them for all disease possibilities.
I believe that integrative medicine and personalized medicine will emerge together. Treatments might typically include following the appropriate constitutional diet. Doing so would likely lessen the incidence of the disease or reduce its severity or both. (This certainly would be an appropriate subject for further clinical study.) But knowing a person’s Sasang Constitution could also apply to selecting Western medical treatments. If we start truly integrating Eastern and Western medicine we could begin screening appropriately for heart disease or certain types of cancer. Genetic screening and tailoring treatment by constitution could save both resources and lives.
For further reading on the subject of personalized medicine check out this article: FDA’s Unique Role and Responsibilities in Personalized Medicine
Disclaimer: This blog is not intended to be a substitute for personal, professional, medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.