Published Oct 17, 2019 by A.J. Mistretta
Houston may be synonymous with energy, space exploration and J.J. Watt, but those in the medical and scientific community might equally associate the nation’s fourth largest city with genomic and genetic research, thanks to the Texas Medical Center. As the world’s largest medical center, it has given rise to Houston as a center of discoveries helping to shape the future of medicine.
“As people are seeing in their doctors’ offices every day, we are better than ever at predicting, diagnosing, and treating diseases more precisely than ever,” wrote Leslie Biesecker, president of the American Society of Human Genetics, in a recent Houston Chronicle op-ed. “Advances in our understanding of the human genome are giving us crucial insights into how our bodies work and what happens when we get sick.”
Discoveries in Houston help power the global scientific and technology research communities, offering medical progress for patients around the world and help drive the local economy, Biesecker said. It’s one reason her organization brought 9,000 genetic researchers from 80 different countries to Houston in late 2019 for the world’s largest annual conference of the human genomics and genetic research community.
Houston is already home to researchers at Baylor College of Medicine, Texas A&M University Health Science Center, the University of Texas Health Science Center and the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, to name just a few of the major institutions. Soon, the Texas Medical Center will join with these institutions to begin work on TMC3, a 30-acre biomedical research campus that will ensure Houston continues to lead on life sciences innovation.
The study of genomics and genetic research is critical to advancing medical treatment for a host of diseases and illnesses. For example, Biesecker points to work currently underway to build databases of genetic cancer markets.
“Genetic sequencing of cancer tumors is helping not only to more accurately diagnose cancers but also to understand what causes them and what drugs could be used to target them, while efforts to understand family history and risk of cancers allow earlier detection," wrote Biesecker.
Researchers are also examining the genetic keystones of diseases such as cardiovascular disease, autism and dementia.
“To be sure, we have along way to go to realize the benefits of genetic and genomic research for people everywhere,” Biesecker wrote. “Yet approaches are driving novel discoveries across the spectrum of biomedical research and yielding life-changing discoveries.”
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