On our 21st birthday, our team at HealthCare21 covered the significant advancements within the healthcare sector that occurred over the past 21 years. We will now be posting 21 developments that will be shaping the future of medical communications and healthcare delivery.
20.The Economist’s prediction in 1994 that we’ll have a longevity drug by 2020 and that life expectancy will jump from 85 to 100 by 2040–2050 now appears highly unrealistic.However, we have recently developed an enhanced understanding of the science of human ageing, therefore in the next 20 years this concept of a longevity drug could be achieved.
Radical improvements are anticipated in preventing heart attacks, strokes, seizures, asthma and autoimmune diseases. The use of omics technology and tools like DNA sequencing, RNA tags and genotyping will enable individuals at high risk for certain diseases to be identified. Wearable or embedded biosensors could be used to continuously monitor individuals before signs of tissue destruction or clinical crisis develops, a process involving contextual computing and machine learning. In the years to come, it should be feasible and increasingly practical to track large cohorts of individuals with conditions enabling one or more of these conditions to become preventable in the next 20 years.
A revolution in cancer is already underway, as a blood sample and molecular stethoscope in combination with a tissue biopsy can open a new window into cancer pathogenesis, which may ultimately be used for both tracking a patient being treated for cancer and, eventually, for making the diagnosis in patients. Experts suggest deaths from cancer could be ‘eliminated’ for all age groups except the over-80s by 2050, if recent gains in prevention and treatment continue swiftly. Alzheimer’s prevention also presents hope for the future in which auto-antibodies derived from cognitively intact elderly individuals can be used to go after beta-amyloid years before it starts forming the neuron-choking plaques that cause Alzheimer disease.
Dr Dennis Gillings, outgoing Chair of the World Dementia Council, says that with recent scientific progress and two potential breakthroughs now on the horizon, he is ‘optimistic’ that treatments which could remove the plaques in the brain associated with dementia, and those to unscramble the neural tangles which characterise the disease, might be developed as soon as 2020.
But could such treatments also mean we live longer? Undoubtedly, according to Aubrey de Grey, a biomedical gerontologist and probably the world’s leading advocate of life extension – the belief that medical advances will enable humans to live for hundreds of years. Crucially, Dr de Grey believes medical advances will mean we will spend those extra years in robust good health.