Discoveries Magazine

Cedars-Sinai

Precision Medicine: A Tour through Time

Like much in the history of medicine, progress often proceeds by tiny baby steps rather than monumental breakthroughs. Here we highlight a few of the many millions of stepping stones on the road to precision medicine.

460-375 BC

460-375 BC

Think Different
Hippocrates proposes natural rather than mystical theories about what causes disease, and highlights individual differences in the expression of illnesses.

1761

No Sense of Humors
Anatomist Giovanni Battista Morgagni rejects the notion of illness-causing “humors” and publishes a disease-categorizing tome based on more than 600 postmortem dissections.

2010

Modern Disease Taxonomy
Today, clinicians rely on the World Health Organization’s International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems.

2016

Blurred Lines
Investigators define the molecular pathways and genetics behind maladies in ways that defy traditional categories and spur the development of drugs that can target multiple conditions.

1683

1683

The Minuscule World of Microbes
Antony van Leeuwenhoek describes microbes — which he calls “animalcules” — that he sees in plaque from his teeth under a microscope.

1928

Favorable Fungus
Alexander Fleming accidentally discovers penicillin when a mold kills off bacteria he was cultivating.

2008

It’s a Small World
After 300 years of mostly ignoring the tiny ecosystems living in and on us, the National Institutes of Health establishes the Human Microbiome Project to understand these potential medical allies.

2016

Exploring the Internal Ecosystem
Scientists expand the understanding of molecules in the gut, their relationship to the microbiome and genetics, and how this combination can lead to Crohn’s disease and other disorders.

1865

1865

Birth of Genetics
Austrian monk Gregor Mendel interbreeds pea plants and explains how traits are inherited, observing 10,000 plants and noting if they are yellow or green, and round or wrinkled.

1953

Genetics Takes Shape
Rosalind Franklin uses X-ray crystallography to discern the shape of DNA, paving the way for James Watson and Francis Crick’s unraveling of DNA’s double-helix structure.

1990

Map Quest
The Human Genome Project begins sequencing the body’s complete set of DNA — the approximately 3 billion letters, or base pairs, that make up the human genome.

2003

Early Arrival
An international consortium of scientists develops the reference human genome at a cost of $2.7 billion, two years ahead of schedule.

2016

Cost to sequence a human genome’s worth of DNA:

Time to sequence a human genome’s worth of DNA:

1910

1910

Measure for Measure
The world’s smallest “scales,” mass spectrometers determine the scope of a molecule.

2010

Protemics Projections
The international Human Proteome Project is created to examine the palette of proteins in our bodies and may provide clues to abnormal functioning or disease.

2016

Nano Weight Class
Today’s highly advanced devices enable scientists to precisely measure proteins and develop new nanoscale drugs.

1920s

1920s

The Dawn of Big Data
Supercomputing and big data trace their beginnings to innovators at IBM and Columbia University.

1964

Boot Up
Seymour Cray designs the first supercomputer, a mainframe used in physics experiments at the European Organization for Nuclear Research, known as CERN, in Switzerland.

2016

In the Clouds
Cloud computing provides the capacity to cope with big data and is used for the multi-petabyte (1 petabyte = 1015 bytes) data shared by the International Cancer Genome Consortium.

1960

1960

Philadelphia Chromosome
Investigators in Philadelphia identify a chromosomal abnormality linked to leukemia, which later becomes the target of one of the first precision cancer treatments.

1998

Targeted Cancer Drugs
Herceptin — a drug used for targeted therapy in patients with a specific genetic makeup — is approved for people with a particularly aggressive form of breast cancer.

2015

2015

Presidential Precision
The president unveils plans for a $215 million investment in the White House’s Precision Medicine Initiative.

2016

Precision Medicine at Cedars-Sinai
Cedars-Sinai Precision Health is launched to tailor disease treatments and prevention strategies to each individual using the newest technology and best research.

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