On the cutting edge of medicine today is a field called surgicogenomics that is emerging from the intersection of genetics and stem cell research and surgical practice.
While the surgeons of history had to rely on their eyes alone, and those of the 20th century saw through the lens of medical imaging, surgeons in the present Genomic Era can look at their patients on the molecular level, examining the genes that provide a complete set of instructions for the creation and functioning of their bodies. Based on this information, surgeons can more accurately determine when and how to operate, avoid potential complications, and predict the outcome of treatment.
Moreover, today’s surgeon can draw from recent amazing successes in animal studies demonstrating the use of stem cells in therapeutic transplantation for the purpose of curing a wide range of especially difficult genetic diseases, including heart disease, Parkinson’s disease, and Duchenne muscular dystrophy. In particular, the use of patient-derived induced pluripotent stem cells (IPSC), just discovered in 2007, will allow the surgeon to perform transplants without the threat of immune rejection.
The complete map of the human genome was finished in 2003 by a private enterprise headed by Craig Venter in collaboration with the federally and internationally funded Human Genome Project. The precise sequence of the 3.2 billion nucleotide base pairs that make up this human genetic blueprint now guide the hand of today’s surgeon and will point the way toward unknown territory—the New World of tomorrow’s regenerative and stem cell medicine.