Future Rx

Paula LaBrot

One of the commonest and most important wishes for January 1 is, “Have a happy, healthy new year!”

Let’s face it. Health is the most important of our human conditions. Without it, your money, your fame, your material gains mean nothing. As a futurist, I see a remarkable range of technologies exploding onto the medical landscape. Lots of wonderful new tools are available to help you navigate your body through the years ahead. As we move into the future, medicine is moving from treatment after the fact to treatment before the fact. Moving from intermittent monitoring to continuous monitoring, allowing us to get ahead of disease before it gets a foothold. That’s where we are headed, thanks to the Genome Project and the extraordinary development of biometric sensors.

THE GENOME PROJECT

According to the National Institute of Health, “The Human Genome Project (HGP) was one of the great feats of exploration in history, an inward voyage of discovery rather than an outward exploration of the planet or the cosmos; an international research effort to sequence and map all of the genes of members of our species, Homo sapiens. The HGP gave us the ability to read nature’s complete genetic blueprint for building a human being.”

Once the DNA mapping was accomplished, global scientists moved on to the Hapmap project. They began comparing variations in genetic sequencing to find variants affecting health, disease, responses to drugs and reactions to environmental factors. This research allows doctors to tailor health advice and treatment to the individual, rather than using generic treatments in a one-size-fits-all model.  

REGENERATIVE MEDICINE

Genetic mapping also opened the door to actually being able to build new tissue. Need a new bladder? Harvest your bladder cells and grow a new one in the lab, then pop it in. It’s been done. Kidney tissue is being grown. Digital Trends reports, “Researchers have used stem cells to create a lab-grown human heart tissue which actually beats. The hope is that the lab-grown tissue could prove useful for investigating new treatments for atrial fibrillation, a heart condition that causes irregular heartbeats.” The possibilities are endless.

CALLING DR. PHONE AND OTHER DEVICES

Smart phones are revolutionizing how medicine is practiced. Your phone, paired with Artificial Intelligence analytics, is a diagnostic tool. It can measure and track your heart function, respiration, pacemaker, blood pressure, and do retinal scans, as well as decide to dial 911 for you when necessary!

Selfie-reading the whites of our eyes could produce early diagnoses of pancreatic cancer. There is an otoscope for looking into ears that can attach to a smart phone and share the image with your physician. No need to sit in a germy pediatrician’s waiting room to get a diagnosis. In fact, you will be able to see any doctor in the world in a virtual face to face, and your phone able to “examine” you and transmit the results.

Floating Doctors has been pioneering telemedicine from the jungle for the last five years. Dr. Ben sits in remote, poverty-stricken villages with no electricity, hunched over his computer at night with a miner’s lamp his only light.  By satellite, he reaches out to medical portals like Serma for advice from doctors all over the world. He might shoot a picture of a mysterious lesion out onto his networks or post symptoms of a difficult diagnosis. By morning, he has advice from top docs from the best medical facilities. It gives new meaning to the term “house call.”

YOUR FUTURE

First, your DNA will be sequenced. This allows your health care to be “personalized.” You will know what possibilities you carry, what you are at risk for. Forewarned is forearmed.

Pharmogenics, the science of drugs and the study of genes, will make it possible to develop effective, safe medications and doses tailored to your own genetic makeup and to target specific disease vectors or tumors. National Geographic reports, while you are sleeping, sheets and pillowcases embedded with sensors will monitor your brain waves and sleep patterns. Smart toilets will check your urine and stool for disease. Toothbrushes will analyze saliva. Your smart fridge will monitor your dietary habits. (oh, oh). The car will check your alertness and drug/alcohol levels. Wearables, like Fitbit, will track your exercise, vital signs, and ultraviolet exposure. A smart bra might detect breast cancer. Contact lenses will monitor blood sugar levels in tears. Radio chips implanted under the skin will carry your entire medical history.

LAUGHTER, THE BEST MEDICINE

We need an IoT (Internet of Things) upgrade on a “laugh delivery system.” In preventive medicine, I think laughter counts. A smart bed could tell jokes when you wake up or go to sleep. How about a funny toilet? Your refrigerator might make you laugh when you open the door. The car could have stand-up routines. Laughter is my Rx for the future.

Happy, Healthy New Year Beloveds!

Vamos a ver!

Paula LaBrot
Paula LaBrot

Paula LaBrot is a 30-year resident of Topanga, a futurist with a special interest in the uncharted waters of cyberspace. plabrot@messengermountainnews.com

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