Center for Ethics and Humanities
in the Life Sciences

College of Human Medicine

 

 

Christopher Contag photo

Crossing the Biology to Pathobiology Threshold: Distinguishing Precision Health from Precision Medicine

Diseases have long been defined by their symptoms, and therefore patients have typically been treated when they are symptomatic. However, through advances in “omics,” wearable sensors, insertable microscopes, liquid biopsies, point-of-care pathology, and other innovations, it is possible to make a molecular diagnosis prior to apparent symptoms. These tools will enable a transition from Precision Medicine where the molecular etiology is determined after symptoms appear, to Precision Health in which the molecular etiology of diseases can be anticipated and symptoms averted. However, is it ethical to treat “asymptomatic disease” and at what cost to the healthcare system? What level of risk will be tolerated for interventions that are developed for treating “pre-diseased” patients? Since many of these assays will predict likelihood of disease and not absolute progression to disease, what level of certainty is needed to intervene at all? Medicine is being redefined and we are behind in understanding what is meant by the simple terms health and disease.
Christopher H. Contag, PhD
John A. Hannah Distinguished Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Microbiology & Molecular Genetics; Chair, Department of Biomedical Engineering; Director, Institute for Quantitative Health Science and Engineering, Michigan State University
Recorded October 11, 2017

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