Most recent applications in the medical sciences have centred on gene expression analysis. This usually involves compiling expression data for cells affected by different diseases, e.g cancer and ateriosclerosis, and comparing the measurements against normal expression levels. Identification of genes that are expressed differently in affected cells provides a basis for explaining the causes of illnesses and highlights potential drug targets. Using the process described in Figure 2, one would design
compounds that bind the expressed protein, or perhaps more importantly, the transcription regulator has caused the change in expression levels. Given a lead compound, microarray experiments can then be used to evaluate responses to pharmacological intervention, and also provide early tests to detect or predict the toxicity of trial drugs.
Further advances in bioinformatics combined with experimental genomics for individuals are predicted to revolutionalise the future of healthcare. A typical scenario for a patient may start with post-natal genotyping to assess susceptibility or immunity from specific diseases and pathogens. With this information, a unique combination of vaccines could be prescribed, minimising the healthcare costs of unnecessary treatments and anticipating the onslaught of diseases later in life. Regular lifetime screenings could lead to guidance for nutrition intake and early detections of any illnesses. In addition, drug-based treatments could be tailored specifically to the patient and disease, thus providing the most effective course of medication with minimal side-effects. Given the present rate of development, such a scenario in healthcare appears to be possible in the not too distant future.