Eradicating Disease and Disability

Digital DNA VisualThere’s been a lot of talk lately about the impact of Artificial Intelligence on Healthcare. An aging population is likely to place even more stress on a costly and ineffective healthcare system. There are other new innovations that are likely to improve healthcare efficiency and offer new ways to address global healthcare challenges. One such innovation is described in this Recent Article authored by science editor Jackson Ryan.

Mr. Ryan describes a world first use of CRISPR inside the human body. CRISPR was developed by a pair of scientists in 2012 to modify genes, reshaping the field of gene-editing. This new tool is widely considered the most precise, most cost-effective and quickest way to edit genes. In other articles by Mr. Ryan, he describes far reaching applications, including conservation, agriculture, drug development and fighting genetic diseases.

Describing the early days of a revolution, our author explains that scientists at the Casey Eye Institute at Oregon Health & Science University, Portland, have administered a new CRISPR-based medicine to treat an inherited form of blindness, according to the two biotech companies which make the treatment. He states: The breakthrough trial aims to test an experimental treatment for the genetically-inherited disease Leber congenital amaurosis 10. The disease is caused by a faulty gene that causes blindness from birth or during the first few months of life and affects around one in every 40,000 births. There are currently no approved treatment options.

The technology has been floated as a potential tool that may bring the woolly mammoth back from the dead (described in my post on De-extinction), change agricultural practices and even eradicate entire species. In a brilliant journey through the economic history of the western world, author Robert J. Gordon looks at The Rise and Fall of American Growth. In exploring the high mortality rates that preceded the early twentieth century, he concludes that an era of great invention was responsible for the decline in death rates, which begins around 1885. The taming of the infectious diseases arose from crucial improvements in public health, such as filtered central water supplies and sanitary sewers in urban America between 1870 and 1940. Gordon states that the importance of water piped under pressure to homes and businesses is often neglected in the history of Great Inventions.

If that era of great invention eradicated infectious diseases, look for this emerging era to eradicate chronic diseases (cancer, heart disease, etc.) and genetic disorders. These are the arguments for aggressively pursuing rapid innovation in science and technology. While many fear the downside of innovation, I am a believer in Mapping its Path. Allowing the blind to see seems worth it.

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