June 18 2008 / by futuretalk
Category: Other Year: General Rating: 11 Hot
By Dick Pelletier
As our “miracle” 21st century begins to unfold, a statement, which has been an eternal truth for most of human history, is now being seriously challenged: Humans will always be battling sicknesses. Many scientists believe this statement could be overturned within the next three decades, and most of the credit for this feat would lie in our ability to increase computer power.
Today, medical researchers, in efforts to cure heart disease, cancer, obesity, Alzheimer’s disease, and many other human ills, perform trial and error experiments in labs, and conduct human clinical trials that yield excruciatingly slow results. Cancer deaths are predicted to not end for another seven years, and cures for other diseases are projected to be even more elusive.
But researchers say we could speed medical research progress by first using Clinical Trial Simulations (CTS). If we preceded actual human trials with high-speed computer simulations, the end results would be reached much faster. Ronald Gieschke, of Hoffmann-La Roche in Switzerland, claims CTS will have a significant impact on the way in which drugs are developed in the future. “Human clinical trials will still be necessary,” Gieschke says, “but CTS will make them faster and more accurate”.
In addressing the need for increased computer power, IBM’s new “Roadrunner,” built for the US Department of Energy’s Los Alamos National Laboratory has achieved performance of 1.026 petaflops (more than one quadrillion floating point operations per second) and is now rated as the fastest supercomputer in the world.
The DOE announced that this computer will link its facilities to other government labs and major research centers around the world. Scientists will find easy access to this new supercomputer later this year, according to a LANL spokesman. The new machine will enable breakthrough discoveries in biology that will fundamentally change medical science and its impact across society. (cont.)
But critics ask, “Will ethics stand in the way of this progress”? Are we moving too fast in our trek to end death and disease”? “No”, says Steven Burrill, of Burrill & Co., a San Francisco-based bank. “The medical industry is in good shape politically”.
Two of the country’s largest help organizations, The Rockefeller and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundations recently announced a joint effort to get new medical technologies to the world’s poorest people. Saving lives is more popular now than ever before, say leading scientists.
The late President Ronald Reagan raised awareness of a number of health issues that medical researchers hope to solve. There was his lung injury suffered from a 1981 assassination attempt; hearing loss in 1983 caused by an old movie set accident; colon polyps and numerous skin cancers detected from 1985 through 1995; and finally, Alzheimer’s disease in 1994 which eventually resulted in his death.
Reagan’s wife Nancy now leads an effort to fund research into embryonic stem cells as a possible treatment for Alzheimer’s and other diseases. She hopes people can be saved from the many crippling illnesses that stem cell therapy promises to correct.
Will this “magical future” become reality and lead to a society without sickness and unwanted deaths? Positive futurists believe that it is certainly possible. Comments welcome.