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IEET > Life > Access > Innovation > Health > Vision > Futurism > Contributors > Dick Pelletier

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Our Healthcare Future: Personalized Medicine Leads the Way


Dick Pelletier
Dick Pelletier
Positive Futurist

Posted: Sep 29, 2012

By 2020, most of the developed world will shift towards a proactive, personalized, healthcare policy.

National Institutes of Health director, Francis Collins discusses how personalized medicine and improved electronic records would allow doctors to tailor treatments to each patient. See this See 2-minute video below:

Doctors will increasingly use genomic profiles and patient lifestyle data to develop strategies for preventing, detecting, and treating disease. Experts also predict that stem cell therapies and remote monitoring devices will play important roles in tomorrow’s healthcare.

To turn these views into reality, experts believe more focus must be placed in the following three areas:

1) lower the cost of sequencing genes, making it affordable for patient genetic profiles to become part of every medical record;
2) further understand how to grow stem cells into new tissues, blood, and organs; and
3) create remote monitoring devices that offer patients more control over their own healthcare.

Genetic Profiling – have you ever wondered why it’s so difficult to lose weight or change bad habits; or questioned whether the prescription drugs and vitamins you gulp down every day really help? Analyzing genes not only provides a more detailed view of your health condition, it also enables doctors to prescribe treatments more accurately. Learn more from this NOVA presentation, “Cracking Your Genetic Code.”

Stem Cell Therapy – a government report, “2020: A New Vision – A Future for Regenerative Medicine” declared stem cells to be the evolution of healthcare. Positive futurists believe that by 2030, this wonder tech will enable doctors to rejuvenate body parts damaged from disease or aging; even wrinkled skin might one day be replaced with young resilient skin. Could the ‘Fountain of Youth’ finally become reality?

Though more research is needed to realize all the hopes and dreams of stem cells, progress is advancing; especially in areas of creating dissolvable housing systems (templates) that direct stem cells to grow into specific parts, such as hearts, livers, pancreas, muscles, bones, eyes, skin, and teeth.

However, researchers have noticed that stem cells degrade in quality as people age, and this has prompted a Colorado company, Stem Cell Backup, to offer people the ability to “bank” their stem cells for future use. Founder Patrick O’Malley says it’s important to back up your stem cells as early as possible.

Researchers have recently discovered that Parkinson’s, muscular dystrophy, spinal cord repair, diabetes, and tooth replacement, all respond better when treated with younger stem cells. Experts predict that stem cell replacement technology will become a dominant force in 21st Century healthcare.
In another medical breakthrough, Las Vegas, NV scientist Walter Goldstein and partners, Warren Miller and Robert Risacher believe the type of “natural Universal Blood source” they are working on could gain FDA approval by 2018. The product, called IVRBC, begins with stem cells that become red blood cells using their company’s process.

By extracting stem cells from a select patient with stem cell markers that define the hematopoietic pathway (the way the body makes blood), their company will use the process they are developing to make Universal Blood to supply red cell needs, thereby minimizing use of donor blood. Doctors, for the first time will be provided unlimited blood supplies properly matched to patient needs.

This process would treat diseases like anemia, and many blood and bone marrow disorders. Goldstein announced that their unique ‘scale up’ method could enable volume production necessary to satisfy the heavy demands of blood centers.

Remote Monitoring – includes devices that give patients more control over their health. Corventis Corporation recently completed clinical trials with a device that sticks to patient chests like a Band-Aid and transmits heart rate, fluid status, exercise, and posture habits directly to their doctor 24/7.

By 2020, most of the developed world will shift towards a proactive, personalized, healthcare policy. Here’s hoping that the medical advances mentioned in this article may one day help every reader enjoy a long-lasting healthy life full of vim, vigor, and enthusiasm.

As Spock would say, “Live long and prosper.” .


Dick Pelletier is a weekly columnist who writes about future science and technologies for numerous publications. He's also appeared on various TV shows, and he blogs at Immortaltech.
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COMMENTS


The public is starting to be aware of personalised medicine.
BTW, one of the famous telemedicinevanelizers (Prajnay Gupte) said Mormons live 10 percent longer for men; 6 percent longer for women,
not because of Mormon proscription of alcohol and caffeine, but because Mormons don’t smoke, their familial felicity, and a few other factors.





  I envision an incredible future unfolding in the coming decades. Today’s healthcare advances are only the beginning.

  Futurists Ray Kurzweil and Institute for Molecular Manufacturing’s Robert Freitas believe that tiny medical nano-devices expected by late 2020s will provide radical upgrades to our bodies. “We won’t reengineer our bodies all at once”, Kurzweil says, “It will be an incremental process accomplished one benign step at a time over decades”.

    Today we prevent many diseases through nutrition and supplements, and we look forward to biotech and nanotech breakthroughs expected in the 2020s that will replace defective and aging organs with stem cell therapies, genetic engineering, and advanced nanomaterials.

    Kurzweil also predicts that in the coming decades, progress in cognitive sciences will enable non-biological intelligence to merge with our biological brains.

    As we learn more about our body, experts say we can engineer new systems with dramatic improvements. Freitas believes that by the 2030s, we could create artificial respirocytes that would allow us to hold our breath for 4 hours and sprint for 15 minutes without taking a breath.

    Even more radical, with respirocytes providing extended access to oxygen, nanobots could remove carbon dioxide from our cells, which would eliminate the need for lungs. Without lungs, we would no longer require breathable air! This will give us incredible abilities. We could live in space and on other planets with little technology help.

    In his book, Fantastic Voyage, Kurzweil describes how we could reengineer our digestive system, enabling nanobots to deliver nutrients directly into our cells, eliminating the need for food. To implement this technology, we would wear a ‘nutrient belt’ loaded with millions of nutrient-bearing ‘bots, which would enter and leave the body through our skin.

    However, many may want to hang on to their food-eating pleasures, so scientists propose a special digestive tract to receive real food, but bar those nutrients from entering the blood stream. ‘Bots would convert this food into molecules and route it into the ‘nutrient belt’. This would allow us to eat anything we want – no harm, no foul.

    The next organ on our hit list is the heart, a remarkable machine, but one that is too often subject to failure. Freitas has designed a revolutionary nano-robotic blood cell system that he believes could eliminate the need for a heart.

    This configuration would also eliminate need for kidneys, bladder, liver, lower esophagus, stomach, intestines, bowel, and skeleton. We will need to keep our skin, sex organs, mouth and upper esophagus for touching, talking and eating, but scientists believe we could also replace these parts with an exotic ‘nano-skin’, which offers greater protection from physical force and extreme temperatures, and may even provide more enjoyable sex and touch.

    The most amazing application of this future includes replacing the brain. Scientists hope to reverse-engineer the brain by mid 2020s or so, and with efforts to capture thought at moment of creation underway at Howard Hughes Medical Institute, forward-thinkers believe we can one day replace neurons with materials that process information at supercomputer speeds.

    Will this ‘magical future’ happen? Forward-thinkers see these radical advances as our next evolutionary step, which could become reality by 2050. Comments welcome.





“However, many may want to hang on to their food-eating pleasures”


Can understand why the sex organs would be retained, but why would food be considered worth retaining in the future even given this?:

“...a special digestive tract to receive real food, but bar those nutrients from entering the blood stream. ‘Bots would convert this food into molecules and route it into the ‘nutrient belt’...”

Strikes me as sort-of giving up the carriage but keeping the horseless!





Kurzweil mentions that food connoisseurs may not want to give up their eating pleasures right away, so providing them with a temporary arrangement would resolve their concerns.

In addition, when you think about it, eliminating lungs to give up breathing could be even more disruptive to life as we know it today.

Although these changes would be set to happen slowly over several decades, it’s still difficult for me to imagine myself not needing to breathe.

I wonder, as this ‘magical future’ unfolds, will humanity be ready for all this strangeness?

Comments welcome.





“I wonder, as this ‘magical future’ unfolds, will humanity be ready for all this strangeness?”


We can point out to the public how death could be considered even stranger.
Though there’s no reason not to want food in the distant future- to what purpose? Like designing an auto for the 22nd century while retaining an old-fashioned internal combustion engine to power it. However no rhyme or reason exists for what people want.

 





Maybe 2030s ‘brain enhancements’ will give us the logic to sort out what kind of life we want as we approach our indefinite lifespan.





Now you’re cooking with gas, the minds we have today are simian-minds probably incapable of making such radical decisions.
Our minds were created for hunting and gathering a couple million years ago.





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