IU Announces Plans for a Personalized Medicine Institute

Earlier this month, Indiana University announced a major commitment to research in one of healthcare’s most promising fields, personalized medicine. The Indiana Institute for Personalized Medicine will pursue genome-based and pharmacogenomics studies in cardiology, pediatrics, obstetrics and cancer, as well as other areas [1]. The emergence of personalized medicine, which targets individualized treatment and care based on personal and genetic variation, is creating a thriving market. Indeed, the market for personalized medicine in the United States is $232 billion and is projected to grow 11% annually [2].

NHGRI Vision to Move Genomic Medicine from Base Pairs to Bedside

A new strategic plan from an arm of the National Institutes of Health envisions scientists being able to identify genetic bases of most single-gene disorders and gaining new insights into multi-gene disorders in the next decade. This should lead to more accurate diagnoses, new drug targets and the development of practical treatments for many who today lack therapeutic options, according to the plan from the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI).

Base pairs to bedside

Metabolic Discoveries Hidden In Our Genomes

This article was written by Allison Bland.

A recent study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) hints at a future where a daily multivitamin could be replaced with a personalized vitamin that would work with the unique genetic makeup of an individual’s genome [1]. Studies have repeatedly cast doubt on the effects of vitamins for the prevention of cancer and other diseases, and doctors and scientists are mixed in their recommendations for taking these supplements. A doctor may prescribe vitamins to cure metabolic diseases, but the enzymes that do this metabolic work in our bodies vary from person to person because of genetic mutations that cause them to function slightly differently.

MicroRNAs in Human Health and Disease

The central dogma of molecular biology deals with the detailed residue-by-residue transfer of sequential information. It states that such information cannot be transferred from protein to either protein or nucleic acid. The irreversible flow of information is from DNA to RNA to protein; DNA is transcribed into messenger RNA (mRNA) and subsequently translated into protein. However, in recent years it has become clear that additional genetic information exists in the human genome. Non-protein coding RNA (ncRNA) refers to mRNA that is transcribed from DNA but is not translated into protein. These sequences, once thought of as “junk DNA” – portions of the DNA sequence of the genome that don’t have a function – are being found to have crucial roles in human development, physiology and disease. Indeed, recent studies suggest that there are thousands of ncRNAs in the human genome [1-2].

Non-coding RNAs include a class of molecules called microRNAs (miRNAs or miRs). MicroRNAs are highly expressed in normal tissues and are being found to have critical roles in gene regulatory processes during cellular development and differentiation. MicroRNAs are small ncRNAs ~21-nucleotides long that regulate gene expression at the post-transcriptional level. MicroRNAs function by binding target mRNA molecules and either inhibiting translation into protein or targeting them for degradation. Abnormal microRNA expression has been linked to many human diseases, including schizophrenia, autism and cancer.

New Genes Associated with Blood Pressure and Hypertension

High blood pressure or hypertension affects more than one in three people worldwide and is a major cause of strokes, heart attacks and heart failure [1]. The degree with which blood pressure traits can be inherited suggests a genetic component. However, limited consistent evidence of genes associated with blood pressure have been produced. A new study in the journal Nature Genetics reports for the first time a number of genes showing significant associations with blood pressure and hypertension across the genome [2].


Although large-scale genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have been used successfully to identify genes associated with common diseases and traits, studies on blood pressure or hypertension have failed to identify loci at a genome-wide significant threshold (p-value < 5 x 10-8). The significance of GWAS data relies on several variables, including the accuracy of phenotypic measures, density of markers and size of the study population. Thus, if blood pressure variation in the general population is due to multiple genetic factors with small effects, a very large sample size is needed to identify them.