Illustration by Chris Gash

Your Health Depends on More Than Your DNA

By Koren Wetmore |

In some not-too-distant future, your health risks and medical problems may be investigated and pieced together like crime scenes. Your health care provider will collect key evidence: urine, blood and DNA samples. You’ll be questioned about where you live, work and travel, and what you eat, drink and do.

Your relatives, too, will be investigated—not personally, of course, but their medical histories and genetic data will be scoured for additional clues.

The information will be given to the detectives in this future scenario: software programs equipped with smart algorithms.

What will it mean for you?

A shift to this kind of data-driven, individualized health care is a lofty aim. It promises a more complete picture of what promotes health versus disease in any given person.

USC researchers are moving closer to that. Through studies that compare health outcomes across ethnicities and races and between genders, they’re piecing together the factors that raise or lower disease risk.

Their findings will help future clinicians interpret each patient’s information to practice truly “personalized” medicine. Some patients are already seeing the benefits today.

Getting Personal

When you look at their DNA, any two random people will appear more than 99 percent identical. But they can differ at about 3 million positions along the DNA sequence. Understanding these differences and how they interact with factors such as diet, environment and behavior is what will make medicine personal…


Published in USC Trojan Family