Tag Archives: personalized medicine

We Have to Have More Courage to Insist Aging is Accepted as a Disease

The recent Nature journal special edition is dedicated completely to the problem of aging. Among various articles covering topics from demographics to comparative biology and robots, there’s one about the interventions in the aging processes. It is a nice overview about the current successes in slowing down aging in mammals, however I found the last paragraph rather disappointing. It says:

Ageing isn’t a disease, and lifespan extension will be almost impossible to prove in humans.

These are the words of the NIA officials and some of the scientists. Aging is not considered to be a disease at the moment. There is no such indication as aging, therefore one can’t register a geroprotector drug, the one that slows down aging. This is one of the major hurdles in aging research. Even though there are some substances that are proven to slow down aging and protect from diseases, researchers can’t make drugs from these substances. This has to be changed if we want to live longer and healthier. I think it’s horrible that the NIA people are propagating this idea that aging is not a disease. They are rejecting the opportunity with their own hands. If they fought for persuading the healthcare officials to accept aging as a disease, a lot of problems would be gone instantly.

Firstly, it would be much easier to get grants for aging research. Now everyone has to come up with the potential impact on treating the pathologies like cancer and diabetes, but once aging is recognized to be a disease, it would be much easier to apply to funding.

Secondly, research would be more effective, all the scientists now working on separate age-related diseases wouldn’t need to shift their attention from the actual cause, they would be able to focus on the aging processes with no harm to the future funding opportunities.

Lastly, there will be aging doctors in the clinic. Right now one can’t come to the hospital and  say, “doctor, I’ve got a problem, I am aging.” People would laugh at such a patient, however this is the best kind of patient, the smartest one, one who cares about his future and wants to prevent the upcoming illnesses and frailty. Most importantly, there is a way to help patients like that. the article says “lifespan extension will be almost impossible to prove in humans.” I believe this is wrong. The right panel of aging biomarkers will do the trick. Yes, the panel will be huge, we would need to monitor a lot of parameters (proteomic, transcriptomic, metabolomic data, etc.), watch the dynamics, but after some time of monitoring, we’ll be able to prevent diseases and make truthful predictions regarding the rate of aging of a particular person. It has already been shown. Read the story of Michael Snyder from Stanford University who was able to track the onset of his type 2 diabetes and treat it, way before the traditional diagnostics could detect the illness.

Glass, Sierra and others hope that research on ageing interventions will change the way we think about disease and drug development, and lead to treatments that tackle multiple age-related diseases at once. Major causes of death worldwide, including cancer and cardiovascular disease, share a common risk factor: age. Tackling one disease at a time isn’t working, says the NIA’s de Cabo. “Ageing is the leading risk factor for all chronic diseases,” he says. “Postpone ageing, and you postpone these diseases.”

Dr. de Cabo is right, however it is absolutely not clear to me how these researchers are going to change the existing attitude without making aging recognized as a disease. I believe it’s NIA that has to be the leader in persuading the government to change the nomenclature and include aging in the list of diseases. Instead, they are hiding their heads in the sand. And in the meantime we are not getting any younger.

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Daniel Kraft’s Lecture: Digital Doctor in Your Pocket

Yesterday we attended Daniel Kraft’s lecture “Digital doctor in your pocket”. The lecture was carried out by the cool educational center Digital October here in Moscow in the framework of a non-profit project Knowledge stream. I found the event organized perfectly. This is a very rare occasion in Russia, where something is always not working. Yesterday was an exception, we were watching Daniel Kraft in HD as if he was right here sitting with us and talking about medicine. Great job, Digital October.

Nevertheless, I can’t say I enjoyed the lecture 100%. It’s such a pity, I mean, I am very fond of Daniel and what he’s doing bringing together FutureMed and his work at the Singularity University, however, I found his presentation lacking 2 major things:

1. Structure

2. Overall idea or a goal of future medicine

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TEDMED 2010 illustrated

Last week I arrived in Moscow from one of best and most inspiring conferences in the world – TEDMED. I’d love to share some pictures and exiting ideas I learned during those fascinating four days in San Diego. So, here we go.

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Personalized Medicine: Using genome data gaining traction among physicians & patients in guiding treatment decisions

Recent advances in DNA research suggest that whole genome sequencing can actually be used as a diagnostic tool to better understand how to treat serious illnesses such as cancer.

Cancer tumors occur when normal cells acquire genetic mutations that let them grow out of control. Through genetic sequencing, scientists can now identify variations that will show the likelihood of an individual to develop certain kinds of cancer and even how these mutations would react to certain treatments. This important research has led to the successful sequencing of hundreds of cancer genomes – just in this past year. This offers new hope and a possible new direction for personalized cancer treatment.

In a recent study, Dr. Steven Jones and his team of researchers implanted a patient’s cancerous tumor cells into a mouse to hypothesize about which drugs would work best using the model created from the genome analysis, and test those drugs on the mouse before trying them in the patient. The chosen drug made the patient’s tumor growth stop for eight months. The research was published last month in Genome Biology.

The problem with using genome sequencing as a ‘marker identifier’ in the past had been mainly one of cost. Not anymore – For a state of the art, personalized approach, tumors can now be viewed with extraordinary detail at a cost of only $10k – $20k which is about the same cost as a few MRI scans!

Even though some scientists feel that genome sequencing to help patients suffering from diseases like cancer is too preliminary and that its success will be difficult to evaluate, others feel that when patients have no other options, the genetic information could be an important piece of data that might help decide which treatment would work best – possibly saving lives.

In my opinion, such an analysis should be done not only in rare cancer cases, but every time for every patient.

Read more about Treating cancer based on its genome.

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