14 Feb 2015

Personalised medical treatments

From This Way Up, 12:15 pm on 14 February 2015

Chris Toumazou CC BY SA Hamzapatel wiki
Chris Toumazou CC BY SA 3.0 Hamzapatel.

Professor Chris Toumazou is the Director of the Centre for Bio-Inspired Technology and Founder and Chief Scientist for the Institute of Biomedical Engineering at Imperial College London.

His work explores how technology can be used to manipulate the body's communication systems to improve our health. There are many intriguing applications; controlling insulin production in the pancreas to manage type 2 diabetes, as an early warning system for epilepsy, and some groundbreaking work in the field of appetite and obesity.

Meanwhile, a quick and cheap DNA test using computer chip technology that he developed won him a European Inventor Award.

Now he aims to disrupt the traditional healthcare system, making it more personalised by using treatments based on an individual's genetics. To illustrate the idea, he's appealing to people's vanity, and developing skin care products that are tailored to an individual's genetic profile.

"Genes on their own are dumb it's how they express themselves and expressing genes through lifestyle is the big thing.. it's called epigenetics. If you look at smoking, smoking has a huge effect on collagen degradation, if you notice smokers are more wrinkled than non-smokers. So if you could use this skin care, you do a genetic test, you smoke, you then give up smoking then you look at the effects of that smoking on wrinkle size...Surely looking into a mirror for some people seems to be much more of a preventative measure to smoking than looking at a carotid lung on the back of a cigarette box."

Professor Chris Toumazou talks to This Way Up's Simon Morton.