The NHS is setting up DNA sequencing centres across England

The NHS is setting up 11 Genomics Medicine Centres in English hospitals in order to try to improve treatments for diseases including cancer and genetic illnesses. The hope is that by making medications more personalised, they’ll be able to work more effectively with each individual’s genes and body chemistry.

As the BBC reports, doctors will recruit suitable patients for the scheme, who’ll have to agree to share their genetic data and health history on a central database accessible by researchers and drug companies. It won’t include identifying details, but it’s still a lot to ask. Hopefully, though, the rewards will be big.

The centres are aiming to sequence 100,000 genomes (a genome = all of an individual’s DNA) over the next three years. That includes 25,000 cancer patients, whose healthy tissue and cancerous tissue will be sequenced and then compared, and 15,000 patients living with rare diseases whose genetic make-up will be compared with members of their family. By identifying the mutation(s) that are triggering diseases, specific, individualised medicines could be developed.

In future, all life-threatening and life-limiting diseases might be understood and treated in a similar way. The project will eventually be carried out in NHS trusts across England but for now, centres will open in February at the following hospitals: Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, Liverpool Women’s NHS Foundation Trust, Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Great Ormond Street Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust, Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust, University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, and University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust.

Professor Graeme Black will lead the project in Manchester and told the BBC that scientific leaps in the last few years have made this project a reality: ‘It’s possible to sequence an individual’s entire genetic make-up, their genome, in merely a few days where five years ago that was completely unimaginable.’ Let’s hope that it leads to the NHS being able to treat serious conditions unimaginably well.

Image via Pixabay.

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