|Picture by Luis Louro|
This is what the not-so-distant future of medicine will look like. Over the next two decades new medicine will begin to get more predictive and personalized. First, doctors will be able to sequence the genome of each patient and, together with other data, they will provide useful predictions about his or her future health. Future medicine will be able to tell you, for example, that you have a 30 percent chance of developing cancer before the age of 30.
Among the factors which are driving this change are powerful new measurement technologies. Whereas medical researchers in the past studied disease by analyzing the effects of one gene at a time, technologies in the future will be able to analyze all your genes together. In the next decades, nano-size devices will measure thousands of blood elements, and DNA sequencers will decode individual human genomes rapidly, accurately and inexpensively. Doctors will collect billions of bytes of information about each person –genes, blood proteins, cells and historical data– and new computers will search through huge amounts of data collected annually on each individual. As a result, medical education will need to be transformed. Tomorrow’s physicians will have to be accustomed to the complexity of the human biological system as never before and be familiarized with computerbased tools.
In this new medicine, when provided with genetic information, patients will also have to take an active part in their health care by changing their habits to avoid future health problems. Hopefully, this new medicine will eventually lead to a universal democratization of health care, bringing to billions of people the fundamental right of health, unimaginable a few years ago.