Does Population Health Hold Answers for Precision Medicine?
by Alex Forrest-Hay, Vice President, Population Health
We live in a time of unprecedented good health in the western world – researchers, healthcare professionals, clinicians are all working together to help decrease illness, prevent disease, increase life span and improve quality of life. In the US, for example, the average lifespan for a man in 1950 was 65 years of age.1 By 2007, that number jumped to 75 years of age, and it is expected to continue increasing, which means a growing and aging population for many developed countries around the world.1
Population health, or epidemiology, explores the health of large groups of people over time to better understand the underlying nature of wellness and disease. Armed with genetic information and biological samples, as well as a variety of other health information, researchers are creating powerful databases to help explain why some people – and even geographic populations – develop certain diseases and others do not. How much of a role does genetics play compared to a person’s environment? Or, how does living in a congested city with pollution compare to a rural community?
Researchers around the world are gathering genomic and metabolic data from millions of participants to assess the internal and external factors that impact health. This information will help identify important diseases where prevention, diagnosis and treatment are most effective and early detection has the potential to change the outcome.
Metabolon is contributing to these efforts through its Precision Metabolomics™ technology. Unlike genomics, which assesses the risk of developing a disease, metabolomics provides a snapshot of health that gives researchers and clinicians a better understanding of health and the influences of genes, microbiome, diet, lifestyle and drug treatments. Metabolomics also improves understanding of gene function.
Because metabolic data is dynamic and changes with an individual, that information can be used to tailor health care and lifestyle. It is important to remember that clinicians have used metabolites for decades in patient care. To name a few, glucose, creatinine and cholesterol are routinely tested for the diagnosis and management of diabetes, kidney disease and cardiovascular disease. On a certain level, all diseases are metabolic, and there will be a physical manifestation of the disease reflected in our metabolomes. The information gained from metabolomic research provides a foundation to help speed the journey from population health to precision medicine.
I am proud to lead a team that is committed to collecting and providing valuable, integrative knowledge toward understanding gene function and metabolic health. Our Population Health team works with leading government, academic and commercial researchers around the world to establish Metabolon as the preferred provider of metabolomics data for these studies.
Based on our engagement with these groups, there is no doubt that metabolomics is a necessity if these large-scale, multi-omic precision medicine initiatives are going to reshape how medicine is practiced in the 21st century. In addition, the intelligence gained from population health studies could enable Metabolon to develop next-generation clinical tests that will improve patient care and empower an individual to better understand, take control, improve their health and even prevent diseases. We aim to put Precision Metabolomics at the forefront of the precision medicine revolution to improve the outcomes and economics of healthcare.
To learn more about the benefits of adding metabolomics to your large population studies, please contact us.
1. CDC. Table 22. Life expectancy at birth, at 65 years of age, and at 75 years of age, by race and sex: United States, selected years 1900–2007 (2010). Available at https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/hus/2010/022.pdf. Accessed 10.3.17.