What the future holds for our health: how technological research will change the way we live and heal ourselves.
Among the undisputed macrotrends of the 21st century there is a growing increase in the demand for medical devices directly linked to the increase of our life expectancy. Covestro is at the forefront in the search for innovative materials that meet the indispensable requirements of reliability, versatility, resistance and safety. The goal is to create a new generation medical devices for professional use, but also (and above all), new opportunities which are opening up right now regarding "personalised medicine" which provide a widespread distribution and a daily use of diagnostic and treatment tools. These devices will be increasingly smart, tailored, wearable: serving the "wearable high tech medicine". The high biocompatibility of polycarbonates, combined with the new features, makes Covestro products, such as Makrolon®, particularly suitable to go beyond the limitations of contemporary medicine, as demonstrated by the participation of CMEF, China International Equipment Fair, held in Shanghai from the 14th to the 17th of May and dedicated to biomedical materials.
We also talked about personalised medicine and the future of health in Milan during the meeting "Health. Under our Skin" that took place on Tuesday 23rd of April at the Feltrinelli Foundation as part of the cycle "The Consequences for our Future": six events to engage with some of the most authoritative and avant-garde voices on the crucial issues that will impact our future, ranging from urban planning training to food and health.
How will the relationship between technology and health evolve in the coming decades?
Ian Mattaj, a Scottish biologist and director of the Human Techpole Foundation in Milan, underlines the importance of the increasingly close relationship between science and health. According to the World Health Organisation, from 2000 to 2016 life expectancy increased by five years in countries where there is an access to medical care. This also depends on the possibility of using new-generation devices such as ingestible biosensors, bio-engineered blood vessels, long-term grafts, bypasses and programmable and efficient robots used during operations. The progress in technological research makes new treatments and prevention techniques more accessible, for example - says Mattaj – in the case of DNA mapping techniques which went down from a cost of 500 million dollars needed to analyse a single sequence in 2003 to 1000 dollars today. What does this mean for our future? A potential evolution of the so-called personalised medicine with strong implications linked to the relationship between an individual and a community, on the one hand, and on the other hand, an emphasis on prevention and pre-diagnostic.
Ian Mattaj identifies the "CRISPR Cas9" (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats) as one of the most important discoveries thanks to the technological evolution which might have the greatest impact on our future. It refers to the evolution of a protocol which permits to edit the genome of any organism in the world. The discovery dates back to 1908s but the research development today allows its application on a large scale to produce vaccines such as those against influenza viruses. According to Mattaj, this new technology will pave the way to our medicine of the future: an ever deeper knowledge of each person’s DNA which will allow us to optimise and calibrate every treatment with the maximum effectiveness and to act with targeted prevention protocols. The concept of this shift of the centre of gravity increasingly towards knowledge and prevention was introduced in the speech of Laura Boella, professor of moral philosophy. She emphasised the role of empathy and, therefore, of the social structure and relations in the future urban agglomerations when determining the boundaries of concepts of prevention and therapy in relation to the level of efficiency required of individuals. Empathy also becomes a tool to further improve medical processes, focusing on the sustainability of diagnosis and treatment actions.
Technology, health and well-being prove once again the strength of their bond. Health is undoubtedly one of the guidelines of research as well as one of the tracks along which our future will be shaped. As it emerged from our event "The Consequence for our Future", "an excellent scientific research must increasingly take on the task of improving the quality of life, acting as a cohesion factor for the creation of inclusive society, in which everyone has the same access to advanced care options". To make the world a brighter place: is a theme which always inspires Covestro’s work and every day research.