The Physician Who Healed Himself
A 14 month experiment to track physiological processes has ended with the researcher spotting his own type 2 diabetes and curing his own symptoms. The process used has been described as being like a “movie” of body functions, instead of the “snapshot” which is all that standard blood and other tests can provide. Michael Snyder, 56, a molecular geneticist working atCalifornia’sStanfordUniversity, only chose himself as a subject because he knew he could rely on himself to be available 24/7 for tests throughout the duration of the experiment.
Snyder and his team of 40 researchers used iPOP – integrative personal omics profile – a hi-tech system that garners information on the DNA, metabolism, bodily proteins and immune system of the subject to produce a detailed and updated picture of their health. Because the monitoring is carried out over time, instead of as a series of tests such as one might have in the doctor’s office, it produces a very detailed and realistic record.
Snyder had caught a cold at the outset of the study, so the team was able to study viral infection and the body’s immune reactions in close detail. He caught two infections during the 14 months, and was then diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, which gave him and his team a unique opportunity to monitor the condition.
The complexity of the iPOP system allowed Snyder and his colleagues to examine details of the 3.2 million DNA components in his genome and to assess their links to billions of changes in his body chemistry and blood over time. Amongst the patterns Snyder observed was the changes that ensued as he developed the diabetes, allowing him and his researchers to get a unique insight into the development of this disease at grass roots level. The study also gave the scientists a chance to see how known environmental stresses affect the physical processes at cellular level.
Snyder knew that he was at increased risk of diabetes because his genome showed a predisposition. After contracting a respiratory infection he found his blood sugar levels rose, suggesting the infection triggered the diabetes, although infection is not at this point believed to be a cause of the disease.
Snyder’s self diagnosis was later confirmed by a doctor, and he took six months to bring his blood sugar levels down to normal through diet and exercise.
The moving picture of a person’s health could well be the way of the future, with current medical tests, which commonly measure no more than 20 factors, coming to be seen as inadequate. Current tests are by their nature static, with a blood test being taken at the doctor’s office showing information only about the patient at the instant it was drawn. In diseases like diabetes, with its ever fluctuating levels of sugar and other chemicals in the blood, a system for constant monitoring would be invaluable. And doctors as well as patients would benefit from the ability to monitor other systems and function at cellular level. As technology advances medical monitoring and diagnosis will continue to advance as well, and technology like this promises earlier diagnoses than ever.
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