Why are there no viable psychiatric genetic tests, we ask today’s guest.
Rob Philibert is a geneticist and psychiatrist working at the University of Iowa. He admits at the outset of today’s interview that the field of psychiatric genetics is in a “quandary.”
“The results are not matching the hype,” he says.
The place Rob has found some success is in studying epigenetics. His lab perhaps leads the world in understanding the effects of tobacco, alcohol and cannabis use on DNA methylation. An epigenetic biomarker test can tell doctors, for example, whether a person smokes and how much. Rob has founded a company, Behavior Diagnostics, to commercialize the test.
So how does this help a person quit smoking?
Rob says that there can’t be therapy until there is accurate testing.
“We like to fudge when we talk about smoking. When you look at studies, half of individuals who are smokers will misrepresent their smoking to their physicians, even when directly asked.”
Think of glucose testing for diabetes, argues Rob--reliable data about the patient is at the heart of any effective treatment.
The test wouldn’t be possible without digital PCR, Rob says, giving a shout out to technology made by Bio-Rad and funding provided from the NIH.