Almost every human condition can be linked back to your genes. The list of genetic conditions is lengthy. Diseases like muscular dystrophy, Crohn’s disease, birth defects like spina bifida, and some cancers just barely scrape the long list of ailments that can be passed from one generation to the next. And, it seems that many of us try to overcome our genetics at every opportunity. We work to live a healthy lifestyle, eat the right foods, limit stress, and get enough rest each day. What if there was a better way to protect yourself and those you love from your own genes?

Advancements in medicine allow us to live longer and healthier lives today than ever before. Science has shifted the way researchers look at their ability to alter cells in the human body. The use of technologies like cloning might not be as far off in the future as a way to synthetically create organs that match your own. Of course, if this never comes to fruition, it’s vital to know what other methods, such as preventative medicine, can do to protect you and your family. Here’s a look at how genomics, cloning, and the use of prevention can keep you well.

Understanding Genomics

Genomics might sound complicated, and deep down it is. However, on the surface, it’s just the study of a person’s genes. This includes how your genes interact with each other and your environment. The smallest part of your genetics is your DNA, or deoxyribonucleic acid, which are tiny strands that hold the instructions needed for all living creatures. Your complete set of DNA is known as a genome.

As science has advanced, scientists, doctors, and nurses use genomics and genetics in healthcare to study how genes interact with one another and your environment. For many years, genetic research was limited to birth defects, but because of the Human Genome Project, large sets of data now exist that can be studied in more detail. Genomics is a critical component of curing some diseases and understanding others better. However, it’s an expensive area of science that can take years to put into medical practice. In fact, medications developed from genome-based research can take more than a decade to be available to the public.

What is Cloning?

You’ve probably heard of or maybe even seen images of Dolly the sheep. She was the first animal cloned, back in 1997. However, the research that brought about Dolly and other cloned animals has been around for several decades.

Cloning: The taxidermied body of Dolly the sheep
Is cloning the future of genomics? The taxidermied body of Dolly the sheep. Dolly (5 July 1996 – 14 February 2003) was a female domestic sheep, and the first mammal cloned from an adult somatic cell, using the process of nuclear transfer.

Clones are exact genetic copies. This means that every single strand of DNA is the same. Of course, clones can happen naturally in the form of identical twins – however, human cloning comes with a whole new set of potential complications and ethical dilemmas that can have people debating all kinds of things, like even how life on earth is possible.

Healthcare fields like robotics and other forms of automation have received much attention in recent years. However, another niche that shows promise is stem cell research. Embryos can be cloned to make stem cells, which is critical because stem cells can take on the function of other cells. If organs, like kidneys, could be created from a stem cell, scientists could possibly solve the issue of rejection after transplants while creating a kidney that is exactly like the one you already have.

Researchers are currently attempting to find a way to generate adult cells from embryonic stem cells because they are much more pliable than stem cells from adults. More research remains before this can be a viable option, which is why we must continue to call on the healthcare industry to offer other strategies to improve health outcomes.

An Ounce of Prevention

Have you ever heard the phrase that it’s better to be proactive than reactive? It’s often said about office politics or other societal problems. But, it’s the basis of preventive medicine, too. Preventive healthcare offers new directions for wellness and aims to prevent illness before it happens. Our current healthcare model focuses on treating diseases after they occur, which doesn’t offer optimal outcomes and is typically a costly strategy for wellness.

The trouble with preventive medicine is that even when you do all of the right things to prevent illness, sometimes it can’t be stopped with lifestyle changes like diet, exercise, and adequate rest. That’s not to say it’s not an effective way to slow down or even stop some conditions like heart disease or diabetes. Physicians who specialize in preventive health not only look at ways to prevent disease in individuals, but they often study methods to change the outcome of entire populations of people to prevent disability, disease, and even death.

Looking to the Future

We tend to believe that human life is never-ending. We must remember that once a species becomes extinct, there’s no going back. Healthcare advancements and new technologies might be the only way that we can protect ourselves from our own genes. We must continue to support the study of genetics and cloning to support the future of life here on earth.

Frankie Wallace

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