EDITORIAL

More Biomedical Achievements for 2017

I n the past decade there have been many major innovations in biotech. These include:

➢ Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells (iPSC)
➢ Human Genome Editing (CRISPR)
➢ 3D Bioprinting
➢ $1,000 Genome
➢ Lab Grown Tissues
➢ DNA Storage
➢ Rise of Citizen Biohackers

But while these have not reached their culminations (by any means), they are well underway in 2017 and the health benefits soon will be congealing.

Last year’s January editorial mentioned a number of forthcoming innovations including “intelligent agents that will actively converse with you, reminding you of things that are happening or need to happen and what can be done. Thus, these agents will increasingly play an active role in your life and provide you with a unique type of augmented reality. Of course, your health will be a central topic of discussion.”

With the advent of Amazon’s Echo spokeswoman Alexa (who denies she is a “mere” robot), this is starting to occur.

This week’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) (January 5-8, 2017) will show off Amazon’s and others’ digital assistants’ abilities to make our lives a little easier by adding more voice-powered smarts into our lights, appliances, door locks and much more.

While these smart-home ideas are likely to gain plenty of attention at CES, a study that appeared in JAMA Internal Medicine highlights the need to improve digital helpers’ responses to critical health and wellness issues also.

Unlocking Voice Assistants’ Potential

Health and computer-science experts say tackling health problems could unlock voice assistants’ potential, allowing them to encourage healthier habits and even save lives. Their impact could be significant because the technology is already available in millions of phones, speakers, and laptops.

Upcoming Health Innovations for 2017

  • 3-D Biomedical Printing
  • Augmented Reality
  • Big data and Machine Learning (see “Watson is Coming”)
  • Cryptocurrency
  • Driverless Cars
  • Genomics
  • Graphene
  • Internet of Things
  • Mars Colony
  • Nanotechnology
  • Nuclear Fusion
  • Virtual reality
  • Wearable devices
  • Wireless electricity


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Watson is Coming

Most people know Watson as IBM’s artificial intelligence system which became a pop culture celebrity by beating Jeopardy! champions. But IBM’s aspirations for its artificially intelligent supercomputer are now less quiz show champion and more medical genius.

That’s because Watson “went” to medical school. Watson has “read” dozens of textbooks, all of PubMed and Medline (two massive databases of medical journals), and thousands of patient records from Memorial Sloan Kettering. Altogether, “Watson has analyzed 605,000 pieces of medical evidence, 2 million pages of text, 25,000 training cases and had the assist of 14,700 clinician hours fine-tuning its decision accuracy,” Forbes reported in 2013.

From Exabytes to Yottabytes

Watson’s volume of healthcare data recently reached 150 exabytes. At projected growth rates, the volume of healthcare data will soon be on the zettabyte and yottabyte scale. That’s enough data to fill a stack of DVDs that would stretch from Earth to Mars. And the time needed for Watson to read 200 million pages is just 3 seconds. As of now Watson’s use is restricted to medical professionals, including researchers (☺) but that is about to change, with home use on the horizon. Perhaps Alexa will gain access!

High LDL Cholesterol Will Be a Thing of the Past

If you go to the doctor and each time you find out your bad cholesterol, or LDL, is high, you may not need to worry much longer. By 2017, the FDA is expected to approve two drugs called PCSK9 inhibitors. They have been proved to silence a cholesterol creating gene called PCSK9. The patients who have been involved in the study so far have had LDL levels that dropped by 50 percent. These medications can greatly reduce your risk of heart disease and heart attacks. Patients who have been involved in the study so far have had LDL levels that dropped by 50 percent. These medications can greatly reduce your risk of heart disease and heart attacks. There may be a supplement solution in the wings.

Gene Editing Trial in 2017

CRISPR-Cas9 is a tool that allows scientists to swap a particular, potentially faulty gene with another, potentially healthy one. So far, the technology hasn’t been used in people (except in non-viable human embryos). However, the company Editas’ has the first human trial scheduled for 2017 trial.

How Long Do You Want to Live?

For as inventor and pattern-recognition technologist Ray Kurzweil states in The Singularity is Near, Fantastic Voyage, and Transcend, if you succeed in living longer, you may live long enough to be able to determine exactly how long you live. To which we might add, “and the quality of your life.”

Kurzweil’s Big Three Breakthroughs

  • The genetics revolution will allow us to reprogram our own biology.
  • The nanotechnology revolution will allow us to ­manipulate matter at the molecular and atomic scale.
  • The robotics revolution will allow us to create a greater than human non-biological intelligence. We are inexorably headed in that direction, to what are called “TransHumans.”

Over the last several decades, the digital revolution has changed nearly every aspect of our lives

The pace of progress in computers has been accelerating, and today, computers and networks are in nearly every industry and home across the world.

QUOTE

The best way to predict the future is to create it yourself.

— Peter Diamandis

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