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Genetic testing brings researchers, clinicians closer together

March 3, 2015

Geneticist

The level of specificity of knowledge required in the medical profession almost urges prospective physicians to split off into distinct medical specialties. After all, even after spending years in school and training, it would not be possible to learn every minute detail about every system in the body. Many clinicians choose to focus on one specific system, becoming experts in a clinical specialty such as cardiology, pulmonology, or neurology.

But in the quest to gain specialized medical knowledge, a risk that may impact the medical field is clinicians becoming so focused on their distinct specialty that they lose focus on integrated medicine and system-wide improvement . The good news is there has indeed been a dedicated push towards the importance of integrated medicine from coordinated stakeholder teams across the industry. Genetic Engineering News (GEN) explained that genetic sequencing and analysis is another push bringing mixed groups of researchers and clinicians together in a way that benefits the industry at large – most importantly, patients.

Under one roof
The need for diverse groups of clinicians and researchers to work together has existed long before genetic testing gained traction. However, GEN explained that South Carolina's Greenwood Genetic Center (GGC) may be one of the first facilities to foster the collaboration among researchers and clinicians through the unique design of the facility.

Roger Stevenson, M.D., senior clinical geneticist at the GGC, told GEN that advanced technology setup has been key.

"While the relationship between the clinic and the diagnostic genetics laboratory has always been close, the new technologies have brought them even closer," Stevenson said. "With specific genetic diagnoses, the clinical team can provide recurrence risks for the family (or assurance that there is no risk of recurrence), supply information on the natural history of the disorder, attend to the indicated management issues, conduct carrier testing and prenatal diagnosis, and consider therapeutic strategies."

Key to the GGC's success in bridging clinical and research activities is the inclusion of advanced genetic testing equipment – including technology capable of whole exome (the part of the genome formed by exomes, which are protein-coding genes) sequencing – alongside a fully functioning Molecular Diagnostic Laboratory. Clinicians do not need to send samples across the country and wait days to hear a reply from their research colleagues. Instead, genetic testing at the GGC is just another department open to any clinicians who wants to take advantage of the technology's effectiveness.

From diagnosis to recovery
Stevenson and the GGC may be ahead of the curve when it comes to integrating clinical and research processes, but the benefits of such a model are so numerous that it is only a matter of time before other players in the industry follow suit.