What Will the Next Decade Bring for Medicine?

A Big Think article by, deskarati favourite, Michio Kaku

No one has a crystal ball, but some predictions that I made in recent years are coming into sharp focus with every scientific advance. For starters, every year, more organs of the body can be grown in the laboratory from our own cells. Just last year, a complete windpipe was grown and implanted in a woman. Also, for mice, a complete beating heart was grown from scratch using stem cells. Also, the technology of bio-printers is making major strides and will continue to do so over the next few years. These printers, such as the one developed by Invetech and Organovo, can print human tissue onto a three-dimensional template creating organs and even arteries. Read Organovo’s Press Release about their success of the “First Bioprinted Blood Vessels”. The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) has this past year given approval for the first tests of stem cells to cure spinal cord injury.
Also, It took $3 billion to sequence all the genes of the first human. Now, the price had gone down to $50,000 per genome with predictions stating that within a few decades, it will go down to less than $100. For more information on the decreasing costs of this process, please refer to my January 2nd blog entry “Personal Genome Sequencing Technology is Now Faster and Cheaper—And Fits on a Tabletop”. The fact of the matter is that when the price decreases to such low amounts, then everyone will have their own owner’s manual, maybe in their credit card. By scanning millions of these genomes for young people, and then for old people, and then subtracting, we might be able to find the genes which control the aging process.

In science fiction, like Star Trek, there is device called the Tricorder which can magically scan any body and tell you what is wrong with it. Since the days of Star Trek, a few companies have built their own versions of this instrument, including NASA. Some of the more recent ones are software and hardware modifications to existing cellular phones. A health educator and her team based out of North Carolina made a few modifications to a cellular phone and allowed for it to take brilliant close-up images such as viewing thousands of individual cells in a droplet of blood. These types of portable devices, once they become refined will provide an extreme advantage to medical workers in the field who need results quickly without having to send them to another lab and wait for the results. As stated, these devices are already in their testing phases so it shouldn’t be too terrible long before the technology is both strong and reliable enough before they are readily available. Like everything else, it will be expensive at first. But as demonstrated above with the extreme decrease in the price of sequencing the genome. The price of such a “Tricoder” device will be next-to-nothing.

Read the whole article here bigthink

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