More Precision Medicine | Big Data Activities

Ever wonder why a medicine does not work the same for you? Or why you may experience illness or disease differently than others? Precision Medicine takes into account individual variability in genes, environment, and lifestyle for people – recognizing we are not a one size fits all. Good medicine may be different for us based on our ancestry, our genetics, the place we live, and how we live. Precision Medicine aims to research new approaches for medical care based on differences that influence our unique health profiles as individuals and community.

As Precision Medicine explores many variables that encompass several areas of science: genetics, environment, lifestyle, and more, the field of Big Data becomes crucial for processing diverse information and identifying the patterns, trends and associations of those large data sets. By using Big Data tools for large and diverse information researchers gather, the data can then be analyzed computationally to discover insights for customizing medical treatments and preventions.

More about the Microbiome

The microbiome, is the genetic material of all the microbes living on and inside the human body and can play a role in health, disease prevention and treatment. This makes the microbiome an important area of research within precision medicine. The human body is home to an estimated 10,000 species of microorganisms consisting of bacteria, fungi, protozoa and viruses. Our relationship to the microbiome universe living within us is often mutually beneficial: for example, maintaining intestinal health, regulating metabolism and protecting against infection. Recent microbiome research have linked the microbiome to several disease developments and can influence the safety, tolerability and success of certain treatments. By collecting information on the microbiome and its relationships to disease, we can discover new treatment options that are inclusive of our uniqueness.
… Did you know there are differences depending on where the microbiome is within the body? And there are millions of unique genes associated with the microbiomes of the human body. That is a lot of data to collect! Those large scale and complex datasets utilize Big Data as a means to discover relevant connections and findings within Precision Medicine research. To learn more about the varied and expansive human microbiome, check out the NPR video, The Invisible Universe of the Human Microbiome, below.

Why Diversity Matters

The central faces within our mural represent several aspects behind the creation of the mural, and the science behind the mural. Firstly, this mural was led by all women. Audifax, our artist, wanted to recognize the female leadership that made this mural possible, which spans science, art and business. We wanted the mural to celebrate the diversity of our community, and reflect the strong women of color within Madison.
This bring us to the science behind the mural and how diversity matters, and is critical to the strength and equity of future health care treatments. We represent three women, to highlight that Precision Medicine requires many people of diverse backgrounds to contribute to research.  The two women on the side symbolize the group of people whose contributions to Precision Medicine research contribute to central woman’s strong health and empowered medical care.
With just one person’s data or one homogeneous group’s data, scientists cannot discover findings that are representative of all our community. Precision medicine is not looking at the average. And we are not just our genomes, we are a mix of our genes and environment together. This is why it becomes vital to include the diversity of people and places that make up our global community. Through this research, we will be able to better serve public health, and support advanced systems for medical treatments and preventions that are tailored to our needs.
However, it takes trust between community and researchers in order for communities to engage in medical research. Historically, people of color have not been a part of medical research aimed at promoting and protecting the quality of our lives. Lack of diversity within medical research has contributed to a lack of data, knowledge, services and tailored medical therapies for our diverse communities. Measuring molecular features, like the ones represented within the mural, in diverse populations is extremely important for interpretation of variation. For example, if only a single gender or ethnicity is measured to set a baseline, then another gender or ethnicity that may naturally have a higher level of a particular feature may be misdiagnosed as diseased, causing unnecessary intervention.
By expanding studies to include diverse populations, we are moving towards medical empowerment and more treatments that are built based on our diversity.