Conference Coverage

Personal omics profiling here to stay



LOS ANGELES – Michael Snyder, PhD, wears his research on his sleeve, so to speak. On any given day, he wears up to eight devices on his body that measure everything from radiation exposure to fasting glucose and sleep activity.

The way he sees it,wearables to monitor physiomes, plus personal omics profiling technology, give a high-resolution view of how health changes over periods of wellness and disease.

“We know intuitively that your health state is influenced by many things, including your genome and all of the things you’re exposed to, from pathogens to food, stress, and exercise,” Dr. Snyder said at the World Congress on Insulin Resistance, Diabetes & Cardiovascular Disease. “They all impact your health state, but in a future not far away, people will be born with their genome sequenced, and we will understand in a probabilistic fashion how, with a set of variants in your genome, if you are exposed to certain environmental conditions, you will have certain health outcomes. As an example, if you’re at risk for Parkinson’s disease, you probably shouldn’t be a pesticide worker, because that greatly increases the chances by which you get Parkinson’s.”

Dr. Michael Snyder

In an effort to gain a better understanding of human health, Dr. Snyder, director of the Snyder Lab in the department of genetics at Stanford (Calif.) University, and other researchers have been pushing to bring genomics to the clinic. Currently, individuals can have their genomes sequenced for about $850, “and that price is dropping even further,” he said. “There is a revolution going on in mass spectrometry where you can profile many thousands of molecules and bodily fluids like blood and urine, so we can analyze those in incredible detail. At the same time, many people are using wearable devices. We’re big believers in bringing all of this so-called big data together, trying to define what it means to be healthy and what happens when people transition to disease as we follow them over time.”

About 8 years ago, he and his associates launched an ongoing longitudinal personal omics profiling project of 105 individuals, 55% of whom are prediabetic. After undergoing genome sequencing, each person undergoes measurement of 14 different omics every 3 months, including their RNA, proteins, lipidomics, cytokines, and microbiome ( Cell Host Microbe. 2014 Sep 10;16[3]:276-89 ).

When a perturbation comes along, like a viral infection or positive results from a colonoscopy, the researchers gather additional samples. “We are trying to understand how the different omics relate to one another,” said Dr. Snyder, who in 2012 used his own genome sequence to predict and help diagnose his own type 2 diabetes, a story that received international media attention. “If you know the inputs into a system, you should be able to calculate the outputs, no matter how complex the system is. You should be able to make meaningful associations. In this case, the inputs are your genome, your epigenome and your microbiome, and the foods you eat. The outputs would be the metabolome, and things like that. We try to understand how responses to, say, viral infections or other perturbations are similar to one another, like congestion and fever, but also why some people get more ill than others, or have varying disease-specific symptoms.”

Next Article: