Bangkok Heart Hospital’s Dr. Chattanong Yodwut deciphers the genetic code behind heart disease
Journeys into space or to the depths of the ocean have long fascinated mankind and have been endlessly explored in the hope of solving their mysteries.
The human body too is full of mysteries. Even today’s advanced medical knowledge has not yet been able to provide all the answers related to the complexities of the human body, and there are still many more secrets behind how human bodies function to discover.
Fascinated by the complexity of the human body, Dr. Chattanong Yodwut continues to study medicine and body functions. A specialist in internal medicine and cardiology at Bangkok Heart Hospital, he is also an expert in the Polygenic Risk Score.
Diagnostic technology: From 2D to 3D
Even after more than 12 years of medical study, Dr. Chattanong is aware that knowledge of internal medicine–cardiology cannot just be found in curriculum-prescribed learning and activities, and is therefore constantly seeking opportunities to enrich his skills.
He opted to work for the Bangkok Heart Hospital because it is a specialized facility with world-class standards.
After two years at the hospital, he went to the US to further his studies at the University of Chicago. While his chosen field was internal medicine-cardiology, the focus was on cardiovascular imaging. Topics of study covered Echo (an echocardiogram or a test that uses high-frequency sound waves [ultrasound] to take pictures of patients’ hearts) and Coronary CT Angiography.
Learning is fun
A good student throughout his childhood, Chattanong was never pushed to pursue a medical career despite this being the most favoured profession among parents of that time. He chose medicine, he says, because he wanted to challenge himself.
Growing up in Chiang Rai province, he was so quick to learn that he was able to cut his time at school by sitting exams offered by non-formal education authorities. With a certificate proving he had completed senior secondary education, he applied for a place at Khon Kaen University’s Faculty of Medicine and, despite the fierce competition, was accepted.
“During my years at the medical school, I always felt that human bodies were amazing. I was amazed by how the bodies functioned and how systems within the bodies were related. Because of that relationship, when a system fails, another will be affected or collapse as well. While my classmates complained about stress and hard work, I always found learning fun. The less I knew about a subject, the more fun it was. I was always keen to explore and find answers,” Dr. Chattanong recalled.
During the last year as a medical student, he became interested in internal medicine because this field was relatively holistic. At the age of 22, he graduated and decided to further his education in internal medicine at his old medical school.
Four more years passed before he could be considered a specialist in internal medicine. But his studies were not finished. Understanding that the heart is the most important organ in terms of impacts on other body functions, he aspired to become a cardiologist and enrolled the Mahidol University’s Faculty of Medicine Ramathibodi Hospital, for cardiology fellowship.
“I became so fascinated with 3D imaging for a heart ultrasound that I opted to further my education in Chicago because Roberto Lang, who wrote a book about it, taught there. During my years there, medical technology evolved from 2D to 3D. So, I could see what doctors could not see before.”
Genetic strands reveal heart disease risks
With the medical profession now understanding that when symptoms start to show, it may already be too late, the focus has turned to proactive care. With heart care, genetic tests support preventative medicine because their results show whether genetic properties could trigger the development of heart disorders.
The Bangkok Hospital is an expert in the Polygenic Risk Score, which individually assesses health risks based on genetic properties.
Dr. Chattanong explained that the Polygenic Risk Score investigates genes that could cause heart conditions such as coronary artery disease and atrial fibrillation. The genetic conditions help identify the risks of heart disease in people of any age, paving the way for the prevention of diseases and proper healthcare.
“When we examine the genetic strands of a person, we can check how many single nucleotide polymorphisms, frequently called SNPs (pronounced “snips”) threaten to cause illnesses. If a test shows a person has more SNPs related to coronary artery diseases than average, it means he or she has a higher risk of developing the disease. But if the person changes his/her lifestyle and adopts healthy behaviours, the risk can be drastically reduced. Doing regular exercise, controlling food intake, and abstaining from alcohol and smoking will curb risks. It is possible that the person then may be able to avoid the disease in the end,” Dr. Chattanong says.
In addition, genetic tests allow doctors to assess a patient’s response to each medication. Therapy can therefore be more effective.
Better still, findings from genetic tests last a lifetime because genes do not change over time. Tests can be done at any age too, so if a family member falls ill, it could be worth undergoing the test to assess risks or identify indicators.
However, genetic knowledge is still limited. Even though the Human Genome Project is complete, it reveals just the base pairs of normal genes. Studies on the genes that cause illness are still underway.
If a genetic test sounds like a new and distant concept, people who suspect they may have heart conditions can opt for time-tested and well-proven methods at the Bangkok Heart Hospital. Here, the holistic approach applies and covers a variety of treatment options. Services are backed by highly professional medical specialists, support staff, and equipment.
“I think what makes the Bangkok Heart Hospital’s services highly efficient is communication. No matter what stage the patient is in, we communicate clearly and well with them. They are provided with complete and accurate information. We are ready to answer their questions to ease their doubts and concerns. We offer explanations on the many treatment options they have, and this allows us to explore choices together”.
Working at the Bangkok Heart Hospital for 12 years now, Dr. Chattanong has applied his knowledge to disease prevention and detailed diagnosis. There is no rush to jump to a conclusion and this ensures each patient gets the treatment option that best suits him or her.
“The treatment of heart diseases involves several technologies and innovations. Knowledge that works today may change in the next 10 years. So, it is a challenge to ensure comprehensive diagnoses and treatments. That’s why I am determined to keep studying emerging knowledge and technologies,” Dr. Chattanong concluded.