Millennium Medical Predictions

What does the next millennium hold for genetics? A look ahead

Medical miracles happen every day. If we look back even 10 years ago you can see we’ve come a long way in the treatment of cancer, AIDS and other diseases. What is ahead, where are we going in this the 21st century? Expect to see technical advancements from the world of genetics to the way we see a doctor.

Arthur Chapan, Ph.D. talks of his ideas of what we will see and how our world will change. These are predictions Dr. Chapan gave to MSNBC and we believe they are interesting and worth covering here.

Brain Scans will lead to a revolution in medicine and law even bigger than that brought on by genetic advances. Researchers are just discovering that the link between behavior and brain is much tighter than between genes and behavior and Dr. Chapan says that will lead to major changes in the next 100 years. Brains scans will identify and guide treatment of children at risk of antisocial behavior. The same holds true for those with learning disorders as well as those with special talents and skills. We will also introduce brain-scanning results into the courts and legal system. The military will start brain scanning all recruits. Treatment of mental illness will be guided by neurological scanning.

By 2100, a doctor’s visit will include a scan of our DNA, taken from a swab of our cheek or skin cells. Based on the results, the doctor will prepare a health risk profile and recommend a diet of genetically engineered foods that deliver preventive medicines as well as lifestyle changes to reduce the risk of disease and disability.

Major ethical issues will be privacy: Who gets to see our DNA risk profile? And will we be coerced into being healthy if we are at risk?

Before the next century is out, fetuses will no longer need their mother’s womb for nourishment and growth. We will see many children made by the artificial creation of embryos. The embryos will be tested for genetic diseases and subsequently grown in artificial environments to maximize their health and potential. Bonus prediction — sometime in the next 50 years a male will give birth to a baby.

Should we extend our lives? This has long been a question of literature and religion, but it will become a reality in the next century. Genetic engineering will spur debates about how long the human life span should be. Is living longer is a good or bad thing for individuals and for societies? The answer will be that living longer is fine and that society will have to adapt. After all, we live about twice as long on average as did our seventeenth century forerunners average and there are few calls for going back to those good ‘old’ days.

In general, medicine will no longer be provided in hospitals. They will be considered too dangerous and too expensive. A combination of Internet care, virtual therapies and smaller home care and hospice-type programs will replace the hospital for all but major surgery.

Double bonus predictions for those who bothered to read this far — the human genome will be mapped by the end of the year 2000. A biologically engineered organism will be used by terrorists within the next 10 years.

An animal organ from a genetically engineered pig will be transplanted into a human sometime in the next two years. And, the first successful ‘cure’ of a disease using gene therapy will involve the treatment of the human eye; it too will take place within two years.

Dr. Chapin asks just one thing of all us reading his predictions: make sure to keep copies of this column. He says he knows his children and their children will look forward to reading about the predictions he got right—and he knows he’ll hear about those he got wrong.

(Source: MSNBC)

DATE: 1/13/2000

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