How UC Irvine is using precision medicine to target neurodegenerative diseases

University of California at Irvine's new Institute for Precision Health aims to use precision medicine and data to discover treatments for neurodegenerative disorders, the facility's co-director said in an interview with the university published July 11.

Precision medicine is mostly used to determine the best drug regimens for cancer patients, said Leslie Thompson, PhD, the center's co-director and a professor in psychiatry and human behavior and neurobiology and behavior at UC Irvine.

But Dr. Thompson wants to use the facility's research — which combines health sciences, engineering, machine learning, artificial intelligence, clinical genomics and data science — to treat progressive neurological conditions including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS.

"Many researchers think the reason there is so little by way of treatment is because we haven’t been able to fully understand the diseases in individuals — that there is not a one-size-fits-all in disease treatment," she said in the interview. "We need to have ways of understanding diseases in subgroups of patients that incorporates their genetics, environment and other factors that influence health so that we can define diseases better, understand them better and — hopefully — treat them better."

The center is working on a project employing genomics to diagnose a muscle weakness disorder "that has defied genetic diagnosis," Dr. Thompson said.

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