A new study from the American Heart Association summarizes the state-of-the-science of genomic medicine, the study of the health effects of the molecular interactions of a person's unique genes for studying cardiovascular traits and disorders and for therapeutic screening.

The promise of genomic medicine is to be able to use a patient's specific genetic material to make a personalized forecast of their risk for heart disease, and if they develop disease, predict its course and determine the particular medications that are more likely to help with their disease.

Over the next decade, as we learn about the cardiovascular disease at the molecular level, the hope is that they can develop therapies that will take advantage of this knowledge and be able to either treat or potentially cure disease.

DNA and RNA are two types of molecules found in most living organisms. DNA contains genetic information that is "translated" by means of RNA into proteins and metabolites, the tiny components that form cells and which play many other critical roles in the body. While genes, which are made up of DNA, carry traits inherited from your ancestors and are relatively stable during your lifetime, their "translation" can be altered by environmental factors, such as tobacco smoke, diet, and exercise, for example.

Genomic medicine looks at all the types of molecular variation, from the DNA and RNA to the microorganisms in the human gut that seem to play an increasingly important role in maintaining health, and it seeks to find associations between patterns in these data and health outcomes.

An example of a genomic medicine that is currently available to doctors is a noninvasive blood test for heart transplant patients, which measures the levels of 11 different RNA molecules to determine whether the patient's immune system is rejecting the transplant. While biopsies are considered relatively safe, there are risks, costs and discomfort for the patient.

The hope is that with genomic medicine, there will be hundreds of examples of noninvasive tests like this that doctors can do to better forecast and better manage disease.

Researchers similarly hope that induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), stem cells that are grown from mature cells in the body, such as skin or blood, and can be converted into any type of cell can provide clinicians with a noninvasive method to learn more about a person's risk of cardiovascular disease and test potential treatments before they are given to a patient.

The use of iPSCs is still in early testing and not yet available to patients, but the preliminary results are promising. With induced pluripotent stem cells, they will be able to determine upfront which medications are going to work better and get a sense of a medication's potential side effects.