Mayo Clinic's three transformational centers - the Robert D. and Patricia E. Kern Center for the Science of Health Care Delivery, the Center for Regenerative Medicine, and the Center for Individualized Medicine collaborate with the Madonna Living Community to offer a bi-monthly speaker series in which Mayo Clinic speakers share their research on topics relevant to both residents and the surrounding community.
On Thursday, February 18, Dr. Eric Wieben spoke about Clinomics: New Frontiers in Patient Care to an audience at Madonna's Sister Generose Auditorium.
Dr. Wieben started his talk by defining clinomics as the study of –omics data along with its associated clinical data. He then focused on illustrating to the audience the scale of the human genome, the need for genomics, and recent progress in this field of medicine. With 6 billion bits of human DNA in every cell, this equates to about six feet of DNA per cell — if someone were to stretch it out. Technology developed over the last 25 years has improved the speed at which genomes can be sequenced and lowered the cost of doing the sequencing. This is an important breakthrough, as the DNA sequence is very important to health care. Having this information available in a patient’s medical record could prove to be very valuable for determining diagnoses, therapies, and medicine prescribing.
In a simplified concept, Dr. Wieben explained how genome sequencing is currently used in some cases. After a patient has a medical appointment, DNA sequencing can occur through the patient’s blood sample. From there, mutations to the DNA can be discovered, which can lead to improved treatment.
Dr. Wieben shared a case study example of a patient with advanced bile duct cancer. Despite starting chemotherapy, this patient was experiencing rapid disease progression. Upon being enrolled in a whole genome and RNA sequencing study, his course of treatment was adjusted and the patient exhibited a robust response to treatment. While he did eventually succumb to cancer, he enjoyed an improved quality of life and extended life span as a result of his participating in the study.
Another example sounded a lot like an episode of House M.D., but without the guesswork to eventually solve the diagnostic puzzle. Some patients spend 5-30 years on a diagnostic odyssey for rare diseases or diseases that are difficult to determine, from onset of symptoms to an accurate diagnosis. However, with advancements in genome sequencing, more patients are finding answers and receiving life-altering treatment. He shared another case study about a patient with an immune deficiency and history of rashes that prevented her from performing activities of daily living. When she came to Mayo Clinic, sequencing was done on her entire family — mother, father, brother, and herself. The sequence showed that both parents had a mutated gene on the same chromosome, and the patient had received this “bad copy” which caused her body not to produce a specific enzyme that would suppress the condition from which she suffered. Understanding this gene helped doctors determine how to treat her disease.
Dr. Wieben concluded by summarizing the broad strides that have been made in this field, and acknowledged there is a lot of work yet to do on how to treat diseases at the molecular level and improve patient care.
The next presentation in the Madonna Living Community's speaker series will feature Dr. Atta Behfar from Cardiovascular Diseases and the Center for Regenerative Medicine speaking on the topic of Cardiac Regeneration.
The public is welcome to attend this event, which will take place April 21, at 1 p.m., Madonna Towers, 4001 19th Avenue NW, Rochester, Minnesota 55901. Free parking is available in the Pax Christi parking lot along 41st Street NW.
Eric Wieben, Ph.D., is the Director of Mayo Clinic’s Medical Genome Facility, the Director of the Office of External Research Collaborations, and a Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (BMB) at Mayo Clinic College of Medicine. Dr. Wieben chaired Mayo's BMB department for seven years before stepping down to create and direct the Advanced Genomics Technology Center. His research interests are focused on genomics technologies and pharmacogenomics. He has 12 patents and over 100 publications in the fields of medical education and research.