Scientists take aim at body's killers

August 08 2008 / by futuretalk
Category: Other   Year: General   Rating: 4

By Dick Pelletier

Eliminating the top three major causes of death may sound like science fiction, but revolutionary new medical techniques are being developed that could protect most Americans from these killers by as early as 2020.

In two recent PBS programs, “Innovations” and “Charlie Rose,” experts declared we are at war with the three leading causes of death in America – heart disease, cancer, and obesity. The problems are enormous, researchers said, but all were confident we could win this war. As early as the third decade, they claimed, death from all three of these horrible diseases could be completely eliminated.

Stem cells are rapidly becoming the “magic bullet” of choice in this war. Scientists are identifying the genetic signals that instruct stem cells to grow new tissues in spinal cords, hearts, bones, brains, teeth; even aging skin. U.S. clinical trials are a ways off, but experimentations are already underway in Portugal and China.

Dr. Carlos Lima, at Egas Moniz Hospital in Lisbon and Dr. Hongyun Huang at Chaoyang Hospital in Beijing are treating quadriplegic and heart attack patients today. They harvest stem cells from patients’ noses and transplant them into damaged spinal cord and heart muscle sites. Healing is slow, but as more stem cell “secrets” are unraveled, recovery time will speed up.

False teeth will soon become a thing of the past also, thanks to stem cell research conducted by Professor Paul Sharpe at Kings College in London. Successful tests on mice suggest that people will soon be able to grow new tooth buds. Human trials could begin in two years, and the cost per tooth is expected to be about the same as synthetic implants.

Another tool with great promise is a tiny computer developed by Professor Ehud Shapiro of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel. Listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s smallest computer, this system offers an intriguing look at a future where nano-size machines operate inside people.

Shapiro says the machine will someday diagnose disease and automatically dispense medicine to treat it. The machine assembles itself by “growing” in a liquid solution of DNA and enzymes. These machines are so small that one trillion can fit into a drop of water.

Will this future happen? Experts say yes. “By 2015, nobody will die of cancer” says former National Cancer Institute Director Andrew C. von Eschenbach. And HHMI investigator Ronald Evans at the Salk Institute believes the “exercise pill” they recently developed will soon enable humanity to eliminate obesity, which is second only to smoking as the leading cause of preventable death today.

The message is clear. Be positive, get our body in shape and we could survive into the 2020s living an incredible life free from most sicknesses – and as discussed in previous articles – enjoy a “magical future” with driverless cars, robotic servants and nano-machines that provide all our material needs at little or no cost.

Comments welcome.

When will Americans stop dying from heart disease, cancer and obesity?

or Show Results

Comment Thread (8 Responses)

  1. It will happen, but not before 2100. The human body is a brutally complicated and complex mess, hacked together by evolutionary processes. There is absolutely no way we’ll be able to figure it out this century.

    Posted by: adbatstone80   August 08, 2008
    Vote for this comment - Recommend

  2. When will Americans stop dying of cancer, obesity and heart disease?

    Adbatstone80, I think you are way off on this one.

    Dr. Andrew Von Eschenbach the former NCI director delivered a challenge to his organization that by 2015, no one will die of cancer. It may not be cured at that time, he said, but no one will suffer the pain and death that cancer now dishes out. Eschenbach then set up a network of over 40 nanotech research centers to help make this challenge come true. Is this bold prediction 85 years off? I don’t think so.

    Regarding obesity, Dr. Ronald Evans at the Salk Institute recently developed two drugs that in lab animals, tricked cells into burning excess fat without exercising. Most experts believe these drugs will eliminate obesity completely and could be available and affordable by 2020 or before. Are we 80 years off? Again, I think not.

    Heart disease could be the most difficult of these three illnesses to eliminate, but already, scientists have been successful in creating stem cells that have replaced damaged heart tissues, and many expect that by 2020, a complete heart could be grown inside the body to replace ailing hearts. Most experts believe that sometime during the 2020s, deaths from heart disease could be stopped. Will it take another 70-some years? No way.

    Comments welcome.

    Posted by: futuretalk   August 08, 2008
    Vote for this comment - Recommend

  3. No way. It WILL naturally take at least a century.

    Complexity, politics, corporate greed, ethical issues, the FDA, corruption, the warlike nature of the human animal, the conservative nature of humans in general, jaded incredulity and the fact that the universe doesn’t function in the way that Kurzweil thinks will set the appropriate pace of this progress how it should be. Exponential curves DO NOT last, and there ARE limitations.

    Posted by: adbatstone80   August 09, 2008
    Vote for this comment - Recommend

  4. Adbatstone80, your vague reply was not specific enough for me to understand. It came across as negative “garbage talk.” And I don’t know why you brought up Kurzweil as he was not mentioned in the article at all.

    Remember, we’re not talking about finding cures for these diseases; we’re only saying that by the projected dates, they will become manageable and that no one will undergo the pain, suffering, and death that these sicknesses now dish out.

    Posted by: futuretalk   August 09, 2008
    Vote for this comment - Recommend

  5. The irony is that adbatstone80 (who simply cannot resist slamming every ounce of positivity he detects), is right about one thing: exponential curves do not last. They are replaced by new ones.

    And above all, the same claims of “a century is needed” were made at the beginning of the human genome project. In fact, I’d be willing to bet that adbatstone80 was the lead voice in that particular naysayer rant (and all others too).

    Truth be told, we don’t need to understand the entire human machine in exquisite detail to solve medical problems. We don’t understand the brain, but sumatriptan knocks down migraines, and that was targetted research. Progress is being made everyday. My advice, my negative friend, is to check out or one of the many websites which monitor advances. New technologies literally get shown everyday, some of them quite exciting – and all in the humble year of 2008.

    Posted by: CptSunbeam   August 09, 2008
    Vote for this comment - Recommend

  6. I am really interested to learn about these breakthroughs. I am going to do some searching on the names you mentioned. Is it possible for you to link to pertinent articles within your posts for easy access?

    Posted by: Mielle Sullivan   August 11, 2008
    Vote for this comment - Recommend

  7. Mielle, I have not been successful in linking sites on your website, but if you provide a list of areas where you would like more info, I would be glad to give you what I have.

    Posted by: futuretalk   August 11, 2008
    Vote for this comment - Recommend

  8. I believe we will see an end to all of the previously mentioned health issues. adbatstone80 just hopped around because he was getting burnt by facts. True drama!!! I think in the next couple of years we will see amazing advancements that are predicted as a far off 2030.

    Posted by: LifeORiley   November 07, 2008
    Vote for this comment - Recommend