Science Questions

Are there different body types when responding to drugs?

Sun, 20th Jul 2008

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Question

Pooky Amsterdam, Second Life asked:

Different people react differently to different drugs. Would you say there are different body types in the population and therefore should we be looking for them?

Answer

We put this question to Dr Harren Jhoti:

Harren -  Yes, I think this is a very interesting question. It really touches on whatís happening in a broader sense in the pharmaceutical industry. People are really talking about personalised medicine. This issue that body types or different types of people, often due to their different genotypes or genetic make-up - itís going to be very interesting to see how drugs actually are metabolised by different types of people and whether those drugs show different levels of efficacy in different types of people. Thereís a huge push in the industry now to see whether we canít try to predict up front by reading the genotype of a particular person and whether that person is going to a) respond to the particular treatment and b) whether theyíre going to have a higher chance of having detrimental side-effects due to some toxicities. Thereís a big push in this whole personalised medicine. Itís based on body types and genome sequencing. Itís all part of the same issue.

Chris -  Itís very interesting, isnít it. If you go into a shoe shop you expect to get a pair of shoes thatís the right size for you. But you go into a chemist and youíre given a drug which millions of other people take and itís expected t o fit your molecules in your body just perfectly even though you might be totally different from the next person.

Harren -  Yeah. Thatís a reality today because we simply havenít had the technologies to be able to segregate people into these different groups. Genome sequencing is a very recent development and many of these drugs were actually discovered and developed ten or fifteen years ago. I think going forward molecularly-targeted agents which try to target subgroups of patients is going to be very much the focus.

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