Blood Test Could Help Bring Personalized Treatment for Cystic Fibrosis

According to a story from EurekAlert!, a team of researchers used a combination of microarray technology and blood tests in order to distinguish distinctive molecular signatures in a group of children with cystic fibrosis. The scientists could use information gathered from these tests in order predict responses to treatment and the severity of the disease. The data could also help cater treatment to each patient’s biological characteristics.

About Cystic Fibrosis

Cystic fibrosis is a type of genetic disorder which can have impacts throughout the body, but it is most characterized by the build up of abnormally thick, sticky mucus in the lungs. This mucus becomes a fertile breeding ground and habitat for potentially infectious bacteria. Many patients must take antibiotics for much of their lives. This disorder is caused by mutations of the CFTR gene. Symptoms of cystic fibrosis include progressive decline in lung function, lung and sinus infections, coughing up mucus, fatty stool, poor growth, infertility in males, clubbed digits, and digestive problems. Treatment includes antibiotics and medications or procedures intended to maintain lung function. Lung transplant is an option when lung function declines severely. Life expectancy ranges into the 40s and 50s with good care. To learn more about cystic fibrosis, click here.

About The Study

Lead study author Dr. Hara Levy says that the methods pioneered in this study could be the pathway towards a future of precision medicine when it comes to treating cystic fibrosis. Cystic fibrosis can vary significantly in its presentation, including fluctuations in disease severity and progression, so tailoring treatment to a patient’s unique genomic composition could lead to substantial improvements in outcomes.

Using a combination of data compiled from blood tests, microarrays, and each patient’s individual clinical history, the scientists compared this information to data from a control group of unaffected people. The researchers were able to draw the connection between distinct molecular characteristics and outcomes for cystic fibrosis patients. 

Cystic Fibrosis and Personalized Medicine

Dr. Levy and the other researchers believe that more research on the mechanism of cystic fibrosis will be necessary before good precision medicines will be available, but a blood test similar to the one used in the study could be publicly available “within the next five years.”

Check out the original study here.

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