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How Personalized Medicine Works


Early Success Stories
Taking our health into our own hands with products like activity trackers is one way personalized medicine is being integrated into our daily lives already.
Taking our health into our own hands with products like activity trackers is one way personalized medicine is being integrated into our daily lives already.
Christopher Ames/E+/Getty Images

Personalized medicine has drawbacks that we'll discuss later, but it also has success stories that have saved and improved people's lives.

For instance, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the drug Kalydeco in 2012 to treat a rare form of cystic fibrosis, a potentially deadly lung condition. People with a certain genetic mutation did not respond to other drugs, and a personalized medicine approach enabled researchers to develop a drug that worked for that subset of people who didn't respond to existing treatment options [source: FDA].

And with more than 347 million people worldwide living with diabetes, an artificial pancreas device system is another successful product of personalized medicine [sources: WHO, FDA]. It uses a computer to calculate the optimal amount of insulin based on a person's glucose levels. Personalized medicine has also come in handy for prescribing safe doses of warfarin, a drug that combats blood clots that can lead to heart attacks and strokes.

Doctors and researchers studying cancer have had multiple success stories with personalized medicine, too. In colorectal and breast cancers, doctors search for proteins from specific genes that increase the chance certain drugs will help [source: The Jackson Laboratory].

Personalized medicine has also helped improve quality of life for people living with tinnitus — a condition that causes ringing in the ears and affects one in five people. People with the condition have benefited from a customizable device that adjusts audio signals to their unique hearing situations [sources: FDA, Mayo Clinic].

We're already seeing personalized medicine make its way into our own hands for a more proactive approach to health, whether it's an activity tracker or at-home DNA sequencing kits. But with these advances also come obstacles.


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