With the Covid-19 pandemic exposing the chinks in the armour of conventional medicine, medical researchers across the world are scurrying up to find ways and means to radically improve healthcare strategies, and the obvious avenue for such improvement is genome based solutions.
For example, the leading cause of complications and death in Covid-19 was its co-morbidities, which are basically lifestyle diseases like diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, chronic inflammation and so on.
Since the human genome carries the susceptibilities for all such diseases, it can be used to predict such diseases and thereby help in preventing them from getting triggered by poor lifestyles and other environmental factors. This would revolutionize the entire healthcare sector, as many of these lifestyle diseases are bigger killers by themselves annually than the SARS Cov2 virus.
However, since genome-based solutions are data-heavy and complex, it calls for artificial intelligence to analyze and arrive at proper conclusions.
Scaling Up IndiGen
The IndiGen Project by the Delhi based Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (IGIB), a unit of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), was the first to sequence the genomes of 1000 odd Indians belonging to varied ethnicities. While this project was completed in 2019 itself, it stands in poor comparison to USA’s & China’s sequencing of Mn citizens each. India’s further attempts to scale up the sequencing will be heavily reliant on Artificial Intelligence, as a single sequenced genome is 120 GB of data.
Screening For Inheritable Diseases
Non-infectious or lifestyle diseases almost always have genetic or inheritable roots. These diseases occur when such hidden genetic susceptibilities are triggered by environmental or lifestyle factors. As there are over 200 common lifestyle diseases like diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, cancer, dementia, COPD, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s etc, as well as their interplays, analysing a human genome sample for any of these disease susceptibilities, is increasingly dependent on Artificial Intelligence.
Development Of Precision Medicine
The current protocol of modern medicine is that patients suffering from the same disease are to be treated with the same medicine or the same family of medicines. However, wide variation in the efficacy of such same treatment across patients has led researchers to explore the reasons, and it has been identified that difference in genes is one of the prime reasons.
This has led to the emergence of precision medicine, where the same disease will have two or more widely varying medicines, which are prescribed according to a patient’s genetics as found out from a genetic test. Developing such genome-based medicines calls for artificial intelligence, and India being a medical research hub is witnessing such AI deployment.
Detection Of Rare Diseases
A non-infectious disease is said to be rare if only 1 in 2500 people develops that disease. Rare diseases are difficult to treat as little to no research goes into developing medicines for such diseases due to the obvious lack of monetary benefits for pharma companies.
Rare diseases are a particular bane for highly populous but poor countries like India as the 1-in-2500 ratio translates to around 5.5 lakh afflicted patients for each of such diseases in the country! While the Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (IGIB), the creator of IndiGen project, has started helping hospitals to identify such patients, scaling this up to wide availability calls for the deployment of artificial intelligence.
Personalised Epigenetic Lifestyle Modifications
The most promising area where artificial intelligence can help in customizing genome-based solutions is the formulation of personalised epigenetic lifestyle modifications for each person. Since almost all lifestyle diseases have genetic causes and lifestyle triggers, comprehensive and personalized lifestyle modifications involving diet, nutrition, exercise, relaxation techniques etc can help keep such disease at bay. Since these modifications are capable of overriding even genetic susceptibilities are called epigenetic.