Cancer diagnosis and treatments today are undergoing deep-reaching changes. Therapeutic strategies, until recently, could be summarised as ablation of the diseased organs and destruction of cancerous cells, often leading to serious unwanted effects that weaken the patient or limit the efficiency of the cancer treatment. But innovative approaches are emerging. They target cell functions and its close environment.
The London Olympic Games gave the world an opportunity to behold something previously unseen: an amputee athlete, Oscar Pistorius, crouching in the starting blocks alongside the world’s greatest runners. Such a sight raised an unprecedented question: are new generation prostheses going to give an unfair advantage to certain athletes? Technologies are now allowing amazing performances. But is technological progress advancing social integration for the disabled?
The problem of counterfeit drugs has emerged as an acute issue in the public debate over the last ten years. Both China's entry in the World Trade Organization and the growth of the Internet have deeply influenced the evolution of this problem. Meanwhile, the forms and issues at stake are not very well known. Today, the problem has grown to such a magnitude that it has become crucial to rethink our fight against drug counterfeiting.
Advances in medical imaging make this discipline a laboratory for the latest scientific methods. Disruptive innovations stemming from the convergence of medicine and physical sciences lead to fundamental questions: is there a place for experts against machines? How to reconcile statistical data, mass produced by new devices, with a focus on he who is central to medical practice: the individual?
From risk profiling to gene therapy and molecular diagnostics, personalized medicine opens new, exciting fields to medical research. Not only is it good news for the patients: considerable improvements are at stake, both for health systems and pharmaceutical firms now struggling to reinvent themselves. But the road ahead is still full of obstacles.
The recently-adopted smoking bans in bars and restaurants epitomize a cultural transformation. By creating an environment where smoking becomes increasingly more difficult, the bans help shift social norms away from the acceptance of smoking in everyday life and promotes public rejection of cigarettes. And this is only the beginning. New public policies such as nudging smokers are now developed, raising legal and moral issues.
Technology-enabled home health care should be thriving. An aging population and the transformation of acute illnesses such as heart failure into chronic diseases mean that the number of patients is growing. In addition, new medical-technology devices could help keep patients at home rather than in costly institutions, such as assisted-living facilities or nursing homes - leading to potentially big savings for the health care systems. Instead, the full potential of the technology-enabled home health care market remains to be tapped.
Brain malfunctions account for 35% of all diseases in Europe, with an annual cost of 400 billion Euros, well above the costs of cardiovascular disease and cancer. This is not surprising because a complex structure is subject to a huge number of dysfunctions.
In most places in the world, the death rate keeps falling. Even in the West, where we keep doing our best to tempt fate by gaining more weight, the trend continues to be toward longer life. Now some scientists believe the rapid growth of genetic knowledge may make further medical breakthroughs even more likely. How much longer might we live? And how will society cope if we do?
Looking for balance between science and technology in modern research, we can observe it is the latter in the ascendant. Research is being dictated by the availability of technological resources but in the past, the reverse was true. Projects began by a review of the available data from which a scientific hypothesis was constructed, and finally a search for the best technological tools would begin. Francoise Barre-Sinoussi has suggested that in the rush to embrace technology, researchers may be missing the chance to learn from what worked so well in the past.
Throughout history, changes in human behavior have caused the dissemination of infectious diseases, from smallpox to the flu. But thanks to scientific progress and plain old international cooperation and coordination, we’ve been able to ward off disaster, or at least the worst of it. However, an additional factor will up the stakes for scientists and policymakers worldwide in the fight against emergence or re-emergence: the remarkable adaptive capacities of microbes. The question is, microbes or men, who will win?