Think you know AARP? What you don't know about us may surprise you. Discover all the 'Real Possibilities'




AARP Real Possibilities
Car buying made easy with the AARP Auto Buying Program


Piggy bank on the road - AARP Driver Safety

Take the new AARP Smart Driver Course!

Contests and

Dream Vacation Sweepstakes

10 weeks. 10 amazing trips. Seize your chance to win!
See official rules. 


ATM Mobile App for iPhone and Ipad

Enjoy the best of AARP’s award-winning publications

on the go with the new

AARP ePubs iPad App


AARP Games - Play Now!


Planning for Long-Term Care for Dummies

Get expert advice on planning for your own or a relative’s future care needs.


Learn From the Experts

Sign up now for an upcoming webinar or find materials from a past session.

Learning centers

Get smart strategies for managing health conditions.



Heart Disease


Most Popular



share your thoughts

What does the health care law mean to you? Your story is important. We read and learn from every story and it helps us in our educational efforts. We may even use your comments (with permission) to brief legislators, inspire readers and more. Please share your story with us. Do

Decoding Disease

A lanky Virginian, Collins earned a doctorate in chemistry at Yale and his M.D. at the University of North Carolina. He became a dedicated hunter of disease genes as a faculty member at the University of Michigan. Since 1993 he has worked at the epicenter of the genomic revolution, on the leafy NIH campus in Bethesda, Md. The National Human Genome Research Institute is tucked into a suite of beige-colored offices that look more like a dentist’s practice than the headquarters of a world-renowned research center. From here, Collins, who led a team that found the gene for Huntington’s and the gene for cystic fibrosis, oversees 500 scientists on the NIH campus and others at universities.

“Our best hope for curing diseases comes out of genomics,” Collins says, because it points to the problem of disease at the molecular level, rather than at symptoms or secondary effects.

Genomic discoveries are already pointing the way to new drugs that disrupt processes at the molecular level and to tests that predict one’s risk for a disease.

The research is also opening the way for a new “personalized medicine” that allows doctors to test a patient to determine which drugs will work most effectively with the patient’s genetic makeup. Last year the Food and Drug Administration recommended genetic tests for patients taking the blood thinner warfarin (also sold as Coumadin, Jantoven, Marevan and Waran) to help doctors prescribe the right dosages.

Studies show that 40 percent of those who take the drug have genetic variations that make them more sensitive to its effects and so need smaller doses. The genetic test can identify those at risk for bleeding complications from the drug.

“Soon, this kind of testing will be happening for asthma medications, antidepressants and cholesterol-lowering statins,” Collins says. “We should be able to do better with genetic evaluations of these drugs within three to four years.

“And boy, do we need more of this,” says Collins, who in September will be given the Andrus Award, AARP’s highest honor, for his contributions to science.

“Most of the time you go to the doctor, and the drug you’re given is one we arrived at empirically—we tried something and it seemed to work,” he says. “It’s one-size-fits-all medicine, and that’s not ideal. Now, with the genome, we have a whole new paradigm. It’s very exciting.”

Topic Alerts

You can get weekly email alerts on the topics below. Just click “Follow.”

Manage Alerts


Please wait...

progress bar, please wait

Tell Us WhatYou Think

Please leave your comment below.


Symptom Checker

Enter your medical symptoms to find out possible causes and treatments. Read

Health Encyclopedia

Find the information you need about health conditions, symptoms and medical procedures. Read

Health Screenings and Vaccines

What screenings and shots do you need? Read

Health blog

Discounts & Benefits

bring health To Life-Visual MD

AARP Bookstore

AARP Bookstore - woman reaches for book on bookshelf


Find titles on brain health, drug alternatives and losing weight. Do