The Estonian government has launched a genetic testing program for everyone to offer increasingly personalized therapies. The aim is to improve the prevention of the most common diseases, giving lifestyle advice and identifying possible genetic predispositions. The initiative is the first step towards personalized medicine programs available to everyone, even for the poorer classes.
The EPERMED project is funded with European Union funds. Researchers have developed new techniques for creating individual genetic maps, so as to calculate the risk of developing the most common pathologies. According to the authors, the approach can be scaled nationally in a sustainable way. In this way people at risk of diabetes or cancer could act to reduce the risk of getting sick. For the moment, the Estonian government is offering free genetic tests to only 150,000 people, about 10% of the population.
The researchers will insert the data in the Estonian Biobank, analyzing them for over 700,000 mutations. Once the analyzes are completed, they will give the results to the participants and insert them in the providers of the authorized structures. By the end of 2019, the analysis of the first 60,000 people should be completed. The genetic tests used for the project are a low-cost type that uses SNP-arrays. The microchips identify the most common variations, so as to give a map of the risk factors present in the DNA.
They are cheaper and faster than total DNA sequencing, therefore compatible with future mass sequencing. The Estonian database will be used to identify those most at risk, so as to advise them on possible changes in lifestyle. In addition, doctors will be able to use it to prescribe ad hoc therapies and avoid less effective drugs in advance.