Optimists have had a difficult time over the past year. However, there are many reasons to be hopeful about the future of healthcare.
The next decade will see a major transformation in health systems and healthcare, driven in part by growing digital health capabilities and medical innovations. Here are some innovations and technologies that have me excited for the future.
A cure for type 1 diabetes
The word ‘cure’ is a bit of a rarity in healthcare, with treatments predominantly designed to manage conditions or their symptoms; a cure is the holy grail.
For Doug Melton, a Harvard biologist whose children have type 1 diabetes, just managing their condition was not enough. He began work 10 years ago using stem cells to try and replicate human beta cells, which produce insulin. His company was bought out and recently launched a clinical trial of VX-880, a stem cell-derived beta cell therapy, in people with type 1 diabetes.
A CURE for type 1 diabetes is simply incredible, potentially saving people from a lifetime of careful eating, insulin injections and blood glucose tests.
Precision medicine takes into account a person’s individual genetics, environment and lifestyle to match them to a treatment that will give them the best possible outcomes. Precision medicines already exist; imatinib works to treat leukaemia only when the cancer cells have a particular genetic makeup, Sotorasib targets a specific mutation in people with lung cancer to halt tumour growth, and there are many more examples.
In the future we’re going to see more and more precision medicines, as we move away from a one-size-fits-all approach, and step towards a world where clinicians can accurately predict which treatments will work best for different people. I can’t wait to live in a time when we will have a specific treatment for different forms of a condition, and every patient has the best chance of managing or even curing their disease.
You could be forgiven for reading that heading and thinking I’d read a few too many science fiction novels recently, but stay with me. Nanomedicine is the medical application of nanotechnology, which operates at the atomic or molecular scale. This technology has the potential for a diverse range of uses in healthcare, from imaging and diagnosis to drug targeting and delivery.
It’s not something that’s ridiculously out of reach either. There are companies that have developed and begun testing this technology. CytImmune Sciences recently completed a Phase I trial using gold nanoparticles to target drug delivery to tumours; BlueWillow Biologics has developed nanotech that fights viruses and bacteria. The fact that nanomedicine is no longer a far-fetched dream is hugely exciting and it will be fascinating to watch our capabilities in this area grow.
Feeling more positive yet?
Hopefully these examples have reminded you of what an incredible age we live in for medical innovation as we make things that weren’t dreamed of 20 years ago into our reality. Of course, there are countless more technologies and therapies on the horizon that probably deserve to be listed here too.
What has got you excited about the future of healthcare? Let us know in the comments.
By Lewis P.