Throughout history, much of science and technology has been directed toward the prevention, treatment and cure of human diseases.
Approximately one hundred known incurable human diseases exist. Some are treatable and some are untreatable (i.e., median survival is a few years or less).
At this time, no impending broad sweeping cures are apparent for the most significant existing diseases (cancers, Alzheimer’s, asthma, the common cold, etc.). Incremental but steady progress, however, is being made in managing and curing diseases.
Human diseases can be categorized as follows:
Vaccines, hygiene, isolation and other methods have been used to eliminate diseases for the most part from specific regions. Smallpox was the first disease, and so far the only infectious disease, of humans to be eradicated worldwide by systematic actions.
Other diseases have been minimized significantly, at least regionally, such as polio, malaria, and measles. All these regionally eliminated diseases also are curable if diagnosed and treated early.
Diseases that are curable if treated early include tuberculosis, rabies, malaria, typhoid measles, chickenpox, mumps, tetanus, peptic ulcers, syphilis, gonorrhea, and several types of carcinomas detected at a very early stage e.g., cervical, breast, and prostate.
Most bacterial infections are curable with antibiotics but bacteria continue to mutate becoming more resistant and requiring ongoing development to treat them. Additionally, techniques are being considered to help prevent bacterial antimicrobial resistance (such as using vaccines to limit the beginning of bacterial disease and any subsequent mutation).
Incurable but Treatable
Diseases that are not curable but can be treated for eventual natural recovery or at least long-term survival include arthritis, the common cold, influenza (partially preventable with vaccine), hepatitis A, B and C, HIV, herpes simplex, allergies, asthma, some carcinomas, heart disease and epilepsy.
Sickle cell anemia and HIV both are showing very early promising response to stem cell based treatments for an actual cure. Success in a broader population is required to confirm that apparent progress.
Asthma had a cure in the past but that cure was discontinued due to disapproval for medical treatment by the FDA of the cure’s key ingredient, arsenic, whose toxicity sometimes could cause negative side effects in a patient. Arsenic subsequently was approved by the FDA for use in treating a type of leukemia.
Incurable and Untreatable
Diseases that remain incurable and indefinitely untreatable include Alzheimer’s, ALS and some carcinomas such as extensive stage small cell lung cancer.
Combinations of the following technologies will be used to provide ever more personalized treatments for individuals:
Big data and central and edge artificial intelligence increasingly will help quickly diagnose and determine the most effective course of treatment for an individual with disease as well as identify large scale health threats and solutions.
Real-time high resolution imaging is used to control and precisely guide surgical instruments and placements of medicines, radiation, stem cells, devices, etc. in a body.
On-body devices that monitor and diagnose problems and dispense medications also will communicate with central data bases and experts.
Expanding use of immunotherapy, genetic engineering and stem cell therapy hold the promise of treating and curing many of the diseases above.
More effective applications of chemotherapy drugs will increase effectiveness and minimize side effects. (No significant advancements in chemo drugs themselves are evident at present).
Surgical techniques continue are becoming less invasive and more precise.
Gene editing to repair defective genes that cause disease.
Stem cell therapy including bone marrow transplant and therapies derived from umbilical cord blood currently are in use. Application of stem-cell treatments for neurodegenerative diseases and conditions such as diabetes and heart disease are in development.
The custom personalized integration of these increasingly complex technologies and treatments for individual patients is the overarching challenge. Continuously evolving systematic methods for achieving this personalized integration must be developed along with the enhancements of the individual technologies and treatments.
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