For Perla, thanks to the results of her Precision Genetics testing, the dark clouds have parted and she sees a bright future.
To Perla’s teachers, friends, and family, her future looked bright.
She excelled in her STEM subjects and, after earning an undergraduate degree in mechatronics engineering and a masters in nanotechnology, was aiming for an advanced degree in chemistry.
Perla, however, saw only clouds – the soul-sucking kind that can enshroud someone in sadness and a feeling of hopelessness.
By 2019, her engineering career in her native town of Sonora, Mexico, was unsatisfying. She was in her late 20s, and her dreams of earning her doctorate were going nowhere. The feelings of depression were overwhelming. Her arms and legs felt leaden, and she barely left her bed.
Friends and family had noticed the obvious change in her behavior.
“A friend urged me to see different psychiatrists, but the treatments never offered relief. I felt so sad all the time and thought my feelings were just the way I am,” she says.
Her life was spiraling downward, and thoughts of suicide were setting in.
“My doctor found I was treatment resistant. I wasn’t eating. My parents didn’t know what to do. I tried so many medications that did not work or had side effects. Ketamine helped but the effects didn’t last.”
In August of 2020, Perla embarked on the next phase of her education and enrolled in Clemson University’s doctoral program in chemistry.
By January 2021, her depression and insomnia were getting worse. She felt fatigued and was sleeping only three to four hours a night. She sought counseling at Clemson’s Redfern Clinic.
That’s when she started seeing Dr. Chris Pelic, a psychiatrist at MUSC Health, which has a cooperative agreement with Clemson to provide mental health services for students.
Aware of Perla’s struggle to find the right medications that would provide relief for her depression, Dr. Pelic recommended a new direction through DNA testing.
Dr. Pelic ordered a genetic test through Precision Genetics, whose scientists had recently teamed up with MUSC on a new leading-edge DNA test. Called Neuropharmagen, the test is aimed at helping physicians map the right mental health medications for patients based on their genetic profile.
With one simple swab test, a patient’s DNA can unlock the roadmap to better health. Eager to feel better, and impressed by the simplicity of the test, Perla agreed.
“Precision Genetics sent the kit to Redfern; a nurse swabbed my cheek, put the saliva in a tube, and it was mailed to the lab for analysis. The results were back in two weeks,” she says.
What they discovered was remarkable. The results removed the uncertainty of medication prescribing. “I was amazed by all the information I could get,” she says. “It was so cool.”
“Cool” and spot-on accurate. After review, Dr. Pelic was able to discern a clear path forward for treatment without any trial and error.
The results also validated her previous experiences with unsuccessful medications and justified her journey of poor outcomes and side effects.
He immediately adjusted her medication according to her body’s genetic indicators. Perla’s medication regimen was simplified to three medications: one for depression, a second for anxiety, and another for ADHD.
For Perla, the change was dramatic. “I don’t believe she would be where she is today,” Dr. Pelic says. “We had difficulty finding meds that were suited for her. The results guided us toward medications that were safe, tolerable, and most importantly, effective.”
This type of testing, referred to as pharmacogenetic testing, gives providers the appropriate tools they need to customize medication treatment for patients based on their genetic profile. It is the future for medicine and game changer to a sound treatment plan.
“A physician must know the patient, as well as that patient’s history,” Dr. Pelic says. “When those elements are combined with the test, the science really emerges for the benefit of the patient. I feel confident that people are going to have better treatment that is quicker, more accurate, and with fewer adverse effects due to medication.”
He assures patients that the test is solely for medical purposes and different from other products on the marketplace that use DNA for ancestry research.
“This test looks specifically at how someone metabolizes medications because everyone is different, and that impacts dosing and potential use of other medications that will benefit the patient,” he says. “It also looks for genetic markers that might suggest a higher likelihood of response or risk of side effects.”
Dr. Pelic says Precision Genetics is poised to be a leader in the genetic testing field.
“They have a team of scientists who are steeped in the latest evidence-based science and a global team of professionals who are driven to develop tools that are useful to the clinician and fit with the every-day practice of medicine.”
As for Perla, those dark clouds have parted, and she sees a bright future. She is teaching a chemistry class and recently won the Outstanding Teaching Assistant award. After rigorous preparation, she has passed a milestone in her doctoral program, progressing from Ph.D. student to Ph.D. candidate status.
Most important, she describes her stress as “good stress,” a change that she attributes to having access to the Neuropharmagen DNA test.
“I kept thinking my problem was unfixable,” she says. “The body is 70 percent water, but for years I felt I was 70 percent pills, and they were making me sick. According to my genetic makeup, these medications are going to work, and the test provides scientific proof.”
Perla says she hopes anyone who needs this test will have access to it.
“I know there are many people who are struggling to find the right meds, the right dose, and someone who cares. I was fortunate to have Dr. Pelic as my doctor. He cares about his patients, and he cares enough to tell them about this test. It is revolutionary, and I would tell anyone, ‘If you have the opportunity to get this, don’t let it pass.’”
The Precision Genetics test must be ordered by a licensed provider. If you are interested in learning more about ways to order a test talk to your provider or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.