Captured by The Wall Street Journal
What does the future of medicine hold? Tiny health monitors, tailored therapies and the end of illness.
Take a moment to imagine what it would be like to live robustly to the ripe old age of 100 or more. You wouldn’t die of any particular illness, and you wouldn’t gradually waste away under the spell of some awful, enfeebling disease that began years or decades earlier.
It may sound far-fetched, but it is possible to live a long, disease-free life. Most of the conditions that kill us, including cancer and heart disease, could be prevented or delayed by a new way of looking at and treating health. The end of illness is near.
Today, we mostly wait for the body to break before we treat it. When I picture what it will be like for my two children to stay in good health as independent adults in 10 or 20 years, I see a big shift from our current model.
I see them being able to monitor and adjust their health in real time with the help of smartphones, wearable gadgets—perhaps like small, invisible stickers—to track the inner workings of their cells, and virtual replicas of their bodies that they will play much like videogames, allowing them to know exactly what they can do to optimize every aspect of their health.What happens when I take drug x at dosage y? How can I change the expression of my genes to stop cancer? Would eating more salmon and dark chocolate boost my metabolism and burn fat? Can red wine really lower my risk of heart attack?
From a drop of their blood, they will be able to upload information onto a personal biochip that can help to create an individualized plan of action, including both preventive measures and therapies for identified ailments or signs of “unhealthiness.” (Other body fluids—like tears and saliva—might be routinely tested, too.) They would be on the lookout for problems like imbalances in blood-sugar control, a risk factor for diabetes, and uncontrolled cell growth, which could signal cancer. Their doctors won’t just examine them once a year; they will continually monitor the next generation of patients, offering advice along the way.
What is equally exciting is that this patient data will be added to a universal database that can be aggregated by powerful search engines like Google and constantly fed into new trials and experiments—speeding up our understanding of which drugs work best for which people. The database might show, for example, that people with a particular genetic profile respond to one type of cancer treatment but not another. As more people anonymously add their health data, this database would become more and more effective as a tool for preventive medicine.
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