The decoding of the human genome has opened up an immense opportunity for further research in designing treatment plans that can be more personalized. The composition of a person’s genome varies amongst individuals and also within populations.
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Individual responses to drug are inherited. The clinical implication of inter-individual variations is implicit in Cytochrome P450 enzymes that are prominent in drug metabolism. Polymorphism of over 20 enzymes involved in drug metabolism has been characterized and most of these involve the Cytochrome P450 enzymes. The Cytochrome P450 enzymes have been subjected to numerous evolutionary pressures over time, consequently producing various isoforms. The frequency of variant alleles can alter the pharmacokinetic parameters of the drug, especially of a drug with a narrow therapeutic index. These alleles can either have heightened responses to certain drugs causing toxicity or show very low compliance leading to therapeutic failure. Specifically, CYP2D6 is known to vary tremendously amongst different ethnic groups. Polymorphism of drug metabolizing enzymes such as CYP2D6 can severely affect the clinical outcome in regards to drug response. CYP2D6 gene is shown to have 74 variant alleles, when expressed in homozygous or heterozygous manners give rise to four distinct phenotypes. In this new era of genomic advancements, there is much hope to decipher variations pertaining to drug metabolism and gear the focus towards individualized medicine. Patient selection can be drastically improved by the employment of genotyping. Innovative technologies have made genotyping prevalent and we have come a long way since the advent of pharmacogenetic in the early 19th century.
Sir William Osler (1849-1919) documented that “variability is the law of life, and as no two faces are the same, no two bodies are alike, and no two individuals react alike, and behave alike under the abnormal conditions we know as disease.”
II. Personalized Medicine and Pharmacogenomics
The human genome project has it made possible for researchers to comprehend the complexity of biological pathways involved in disease states and focus on variations amongst individuals in regards to drug regimens (Ginsburg and Willard, 2009). The pharmacokinetic aspect of the body’s way of dealing with the drug such as adsorption, distribution, metabolism and elimination of the substrate factors into the variability of individual drug response (Kroemer and Meyer zu Schwabedissen, 2010). The pharmacogenetic variation in absorption and elimination are quite rare compared to the variation seen in drug elimination (Nebert, 1999). According to Nebert et al. (2004) “Clinical pharmacology is any particular response seen after a drug is administered”. However, this phenotypical drug response is rather ambiguous and has various biological and environmental influences as illustrated in Fig.1, which can lead to a gradient in drug efficacy and toxicity (D.
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