Some years ago I came across an interesting book while clearing out my father’s stuff after he passed away. In the late 60’s The American Association for the Advancement of Science brought together some of the leading minds of the time to speculate on what the world would be like 30-40 years from then. Looking back today it seems that some of the predictions were astonishingly correct and some were not. When it comes to the physical sciences it seems the microprocessor and the personal computer, the internet, satellite communication and mobile phones and even the iPod and digital media were apparently to some extent predictable. In the life sciences the situation is very different since it was predicted back then that major killers such as cancer and cardiovascular disease would have been vanquished by now, paraplegics would be walking through regenerative medicine and we would be selecting the characteristics of our children based on voluntary genetic manipulation of our genomes. It seems that there is something fundamentally less predictable in life sciences than say engineering.
So I started to think, well what if we look another 40-5O years ahead, what’s it going to be like? (Knowing full well that whatever I fantasise about is bound to be an inaccurate prediction).
Entering my daydream I imagined myself walking around with a little microchip chip implanted in my left arm that has my genetic code on it (sequenced by a micro sequencer, these days they do it at birth) which gets updated regularly by my health consultants (used to be called a GP) to track any major mutations during my routine visits. It also stores and tracks compliance with the life style plan that I agreed to (with my employer who pays into my health account) as my part of preventing me becoming ill and remaining productive. The chip works out how much exercise I do and tracks what I eat from edible bar codes in my food and reports that I am indeed taking the preventative diet supplements that I should do. Unfortunately It also monitors all my bad habits and lets my health consultant know if things start to go seriously wrong by tracking some of my vital statistics, all of this is relayed non-invasively by wireless communication of course. It‘s also linked to all my medical records so anybody (with my permission) can know what they need to about me and I can upload any of this to associations that can use the data if I choose to. All this data is also being continuously sent to the national health hub pseudonymised so they don’t know who it comes from, but for general monitoring as part of my contribution to the national health system. If I get something nasty I can always go on patients like me and check what the latest treatments are and then enrol in a clinical trial (advised by my heath consultant) through my relevant disease association (to which I’m syndicated) who use my data in partnerships with drug companies to make new treatments (this gives me preferential access to new medicines). My health consultant can also advise on my personalised treatment based on my genetic endophenotype and a personalised treatment plan can be made available. Bad luck is I may have to co-fund some of this from my health credits. Good news is I have amassed a few health credits for good behaviour (due to my 2 visits to the gym every week and taking my diet supplements) – this comes in the form of a rebate on my income tax which gets me credits (vouchers). Great thing about health credits is I can top them up from additional contributions from my income tax (my employer tops these up also). The government also allows me to deduct some of my tax to spend on supporting my favourite research group/charity since that’s one way these guys get funded to do research now. I have also invested a little of my own money into a portfolio of crowd funded SMEs who do things that matter to me in the health area so that I can support them financially and get a return to supplement my meagre pension, the government of course helps me here via national insurance and tax breaks on these investments. Looking back to 2012 what strikes me is how little choice we had back then, we just did as we were told because we didn’t know any different. Life is good now compared to what it was, I’ll be 105 next month but I am starting to wonder what will it be like for my kids in 50 years from now when they are my age?
Coming back out of my daydream I wonder, are we there yet?
Written by Lars Sundstrom, Director, SARTRE (Severnside Alliance for Translational Research).
The One Nucleus blog is written by individuals and is not necessarily a reflection of the views held by One Nucleus.
Personalised medicine and genetics:
Health care credits and preventive medicine: