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What will the medicine of the future look like?

In the future, we will increasingly be faced with epidemics. And yet people will live longer than they do today. What will the medicine of the future look like? What does healthcare provision need to focus on?

In tomorrow’s world and beyond, people will be living closer together. According to UN forecasts, there will be nine billion people living on the planet in 2050. More than two thirds of the global population will be living at close quarters in towns and cities. As people’s mobility will also increase, the threat posed by epidemics is an important issue for the medicine of the future.

Bacteria will become smarter

Even today, more and more bacteria are becoming resistant to one or several antibiotics. Worryingly, bacteria such as streptococci are capable of learning. Once resistance has been developed, it cannot be lost again. Scientists fear that the common germs of today could develop into dangerous health risks in the future.

The medicine of the future: global warming has a negative impact on health

People’s health is also under threat from global warming. It is not just the impact of heat waves and natural disasters that put a strain on us. Experts believe that the quality of drinking water will decline. As a consequence of high temperatures and heavy rainfall, the ground becomes dry and cracked and loses its capacity to act as a filter. The outcome is that more germs can find their way into the drinking water and trigger epidemics such as cholera. In the temperate zones, the mild winters also increase the chances of survival of rodents and insects, both of which can transmit dangerous diseases.

No reason to panic: people will live longer

Faced with this threat, it is comforting to know that our life expectancy will nevertheless increase. Progress in diagnostics and in the medicine of the future will allow us to live longer. Sensors integrated into toothbrushes, watches or clothes are expected to be able to undertake daily checks of our medical data and if necessary advise us to visit the doctor.

 

The UN expects that in 2050 there will be more than two billion people over 60 years of age. The drawbacks of this development are already being felt in industrialised countries. Obesity, diabetes, diseases of the musculoskeletal system, dementia and, above all, cancer will become increasingly prevalent as more people will reach the critical age for these conditions. Diseases of modern society will thus pose another significant challenge to the medicine of the future.

The medicine of the future: advancing health through genome research

The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) hopes that in future, we will be able to treat the majority of diseases using the results of genome research. Genome research takes account of a person’s individual genotype when deciding on treatment. A latest-generation device at the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics can now sequence an individual’s genome in roughly ten days.

Perhaps we will all carry the details of our personal genotype on a chip, even in the near future. Since our genome also contains clues about diseases we may develop in the future, these data are highly sensitive. Will firms, insurance companies or employers have access to these chips? Interesting questions for tomorrow’s world – join us and other alumni to discuss the medicine of the future in the comments below!

Author: Sabine Müller

February 2013

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