Precision health at UCLA: gene studies lead to personalized medicine


Until now, medical treatments have been used in a one-size-fits-all fashion. But diseases can affect people differently. Each individual has a unique genetic makeup, lifestyle and environment. As a result, the same medical treatment may be more or less effective for different people with the same diagnosis.

Precision medicine means health care personalized to you

To better understand how genetic and environmental factors influence health, UCLA Health has launched the Precision Health Initiative. Our goal is to advance understanding of genetic drivers that cause disease and develop the ability to determine the best care for each individual patient.

We’ll do this by studying gene samples on a large scale to create DNA-informed diagnoses and treatments that have the potential to:

  • Identify genetic risk factors for certain diseases as well as lifestyle changes that mitigate those risks
  • Prevent illness through early diagnosis, often before symptoms appear
  • Predict how people will respond to treatments based on their genetic makeup
  • Prescribe appropriate treatments and dosing so patients have better outcomes
  • Avoid treatments that may have adverse side effects — such as addiction — based on a person’s genetic makeup

The ability to use genetic information to individualize treatment has the potential to revolutionize medicine for conditions such as:

  • Cancer
  • Depression
  • Heart and vascular disease
  • Neurodevelopmental disorders like autism
  • Obesity

Institute for Precision Health promises innovation

Precision health taps into the community of 4.8-million UCLA Health patients to gather information that will help us understand the genetic drivers of disease. The UCLA Institute for Precision Health provides a hub for all of the specialists involved in genomic studies including faculty and researchers from:

  • All medical school departments
  • Computer science
  • Bioinformatics (the collection and analysis of biological information)
  • Social and physical sciences

This integration, along with UCLA’s electronic medical record, will allow for interdisciplinary programs designed to improve human health. We’re making it easier for researchers from multiple departments to work together. For example, we may see collaborative programs within:

  • Neuroscience
  • Cardiovascular medicine
  • Metabolic health
  • Cancer
  • Immunology
  • Infectious disease

Learn more about precision health, including how you can get involved.