Since 2001, MIT Technology Review has selected the "top 10 breakthrough technologies" every year. On February 27, the list of "top 10 breakthrough technologies" in 2020 came as scheduled. The list looks for breakthroughs that really change the way you live and work.
Selected as the “Top Ten Breakthrough Technologies” in 2020 include Unhackable internet, Hyper-personalized medicine, Digital money, Anti-aging drugs, artificial Intelligent discovery molecules, satellite mega-constellations, quantum supremacy, tiny AI, differential privacy, climate change attribution. This article compiles medical and health related parts.
1. The importance of hyper-personalized medicine
Gene medicine tailored for a single patient brings hope to people who have been unable to cure the disease before.
Main investigators: T Children’s Project, Boston Children’s Hospital, Ionis Pharmaceuticals, FDA
Patients with extremely rare diseases caused by specific DNA errors now have a silver lining-gene repair. This is due to brand new drugs that can be tailored to individual genes.
Mila Makovec is such a "lucky person". She suffers from a fatal disease caused by a unique genetic mutation. In October 2019, her case was published in the "New England Journal of Medicine", when doctors interpreted her genetic defect and tailored medicine for her. They also named the drug milasen after her.
Although Mila has not been cured, her condition has stabilized: her seizures have been reduced and she can stand and walk with the help of others.
The reason why this treatment can be achieved is because of the right time and place and the people-the development of a new gene medicine has never been so fast, and there has never been a better opportunity. New drugs may take the form of gene replacement, gene editing, or antisense nucleic acid (the type accepted by Mila). Antisense nucleic acid is similar to a molecular erasing agent used to erase or repair wrong genetic information. What these therapies have in common is that they can be programmed digitally and at a speed to correct and repair genetic diseases.
How many lucky people like Mila are there? So far, there are only a few. But the future can be expected.
Of course, "many-to-one" therapy for a single patient also faces challenges. Because they run counter to current methods of drug development, testing, and marketing. When these drugs only help one person, they need a large team to design and manufacture. Who will pay for them?
2. The importance of anti-aging drugs
Many different diseases (including cancer, heart disease and dementia) can be treated by delaying aging. Main investigators: Unity Biotechnology, Alkahest, Mayo Clinic, Oisín Biotechnology, Siwa Therapeutics Maturity: within 5 years.
On January 4, 2019, a team of scientists from the United States published for the first time the positive results of senolytics, an anti-aging drug, for the treatment of a fatal age-related disease in humans in the Journal ebiomedicine, a sub Journal of the lancet.
Senolytics works by removing "senescent" cells that accumulate with age. These "senescent" cells can produce a low-level inflammatory response, inhibit normal cell repair mechanisms, and expose neighboring cells to a toxic environment.
In June 2019, San Francisco-based Unity Biotechnology reported preliminary results for patients with mild to severe knee osteoarthritis. The results of larger clinical trials are expected to be announced in the second half of 2020. The company is also developing similar drugs to treat age-related eye and lung diseases.
Senolytics and many other targeted therapies are being tested in humans. These methods target the biological processes at the root of aging and various diseases.
A company called Alkahest injects ingredients found in the blood of young people into patients, and expressed the hope to prevent the cognitive and functional decline of patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease. The company's Parkinson's disease and dementia drugs are also in human trials.
In December 2019, researchers at Drexel University School of Medicine even tried to study whether a cream containing the immunosuppressive drug rapamycin can slow down the aging of human skin.
All these studies reflect that researchers are constantly working to understand many diseases related to aging (such as heart disease, arthritis, cancer, and dementia), hoping to "crack" to delay their onset.