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Medicine Will Advance More in the Next 10 Years Than It Did in the Last 100

Stashed in: Interconnectedness!, Awesome, Medicine, Singularity!, Accelerating Returns, CRISPR, IBM, Cognitive Bias

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All these advancements are interconnected.

With increasingly large sample sizes and tools such as IBM’s A.I. system, Watson, scientists are gaining an understanding of how our genes affect our health; how the environment, the food we eat, and the medicines we take affect the complex interplay between our genes and our organisms.

The next big medical frontier is on the horizon: our microbiomes, the bacterial populations that live inside our bodies. We may think we are just made up of cells, but in reality, there are 10 times as many microbes in our body as cells. This is a field that I am most excited about, because it takes us back to looking at the human organism as a whole. The microbiome may be the missing link between environment, genomics, and human health.

Some children, for example, are born with a genetic predisposition to type-1 diabetes. Researchers tracked what happened to the stomach bacteria of children from birth to their third year in life and found that those who became diabetic had suffered a 25 percent reduction in their gut bacteria’s diversity (possibly from antibiotics). In another study, on Crohn’s disease, scientists took a small sample of feces from a healthy person and gave it in an enema to somebody with Crohn’s. Though that seems a disgusting procedure, it proved extremely effective in curtailing the condition. Scientists are also finding a correlation between the microbiome and obesity. It may well be the bacteria in our guts that make us fat — not just the food we eat.

Within a few years, our genome, microbiome, behavior and environment will all be mapped and measured, and prescriptive-medicine systems based on artificial intelligence will help us feel better and live longer.

The most amazing — and scary — genetics technology of all is CRISPR. It uses an enzyme, Cas9, that homes in on a specific location in a strand of DNA and edits it to either remove unwanted sequences or insert payload sequences. With it, Chinese scientists have genetically modified pigs, goats, monkeys and sheep to change their size and color. They also claim to have edited a human embryo for resistance to HIV. For better and for worse, CRISPR has the potential to eliminate some debilitating diseases and to create a species of superhumans. And it is so cheap and easy to use that hundreds of labs all over the world are experimenting with it.

Top Reddit comment:

Do you know what all was invented in the last 100 years?

Virtually all pharmaceuticals.

The vast majority of surgeries.

The discovery of all the vitamins and their role in health.

Massive advances in public health (tons of vaccines, lots of advances in clean water and sanitation).

You're going to have to do a lot in the next ten years to beat that. I don't see it happening.

Chortle.  BTW medical error is now the 3rd leading cause of death (and that's by the system's own numbers). 

Wow I didn't realize it was one of the leading causes of death.

So why chortle?

I chortled at the fanciful headline.  Predicting advances is the worst. 

Not a great title but it did make me think about what's possible in the next decade. 

Aw, you know I'm just a curmudgeon about these things. 

Yes! It's part of what I like about you.

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