Sat | Dec 10, 2016

IT revolution to increase life expectancy

Published:Monday | October 13, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Most Hon Edward Seaga (right), chancellor, University of Technology, Jamaica, confers the honorary Doctor of Science on renowned researcher, Prof Michael Nobel, at a special ceremony held on Thursday, October 2, at the Alfred Sangster Auditorium, UTech Papine campus. Nobel, who is a world renowned researcher in medicine, social sciences and advanced medical technologies, was awarded the Hon DSc

Professor Michael Nobel, a great grand nephew of Alfred Nobel, founder of the renowned Nobel Prizes, says the information technology revolution will significantly improve life expectancy on the planet.

Nobel, who delivered a lecture on 'The Future of Medical Technology and the Role Jamaica Can Play', at the University of Technology (UTech) on October 2, presented numerous groundbreaking emergent developments in medical technology, diagnostics and treatments which he said are poised to extend or improve the quality of human life.

"By 2090, it is estimated that many of us will wear devices that continuously record, store and transmit data about our health status to our physician," Nobel said.

Nobel, the chairman of the Nobel Charitable Trust, made the comments after being conferred with a honorary Doctor of Science from UTech.

Nobel received the award at a special ceremony held at the Alfred Sangster auditorium, UTech Papine campus, "in recognition of the international respect that his scholarship and service in science have attained, particularly in the field of medicine".

Ambassador Burchell Whiteman, acting president of UTech, said, "We are happy to welcome Professor Nobel into full membership of the University of Technology, Jamaica, family and we thank him for accepting the honour to be associated with Jamaica's premier national university."

Meanwhile, Nobel framed his lecture within the context of life expectancy in different parts of the world. He noted that Japan leads the world with a life expectancy of 85 years on average, while Jamaica is ranked at 121 with an average of 73.5 years.

Nobel argued that globally, life expectancy will significantly increase with advances in four main branches of medical technology - nanotechnology, biotechnology, genomics and computer technology. He pointed out ,however, that progress is being made via many small innovations and not just through groundbreaking developments.

Earlier detection

Acknowledging that advances in medical technology will result in longer life, but greater prevalence of neurological disorders such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's disease and dementia, Nobel reported that there is also ongoing clinical research for developing a blood test to accurately detect and treat early stages of these diseases.

A participant in the introduction of magnetic resonance imaging, Nobel has been involved in several areas of medical technology and is chairman or board member of six international companies in medical diagnostics, treatments and information systems.

Nobel reported on progress being made with several medical devices and technologies that either exist today or are in development for introduction in the near future.

Among them are an anti-genome wearable sensor that would enable physicians to gather easily quantifiable data about a patient's glucose level and liver values.

He also spoke about another soon-to-be-introduced device called an aero waist band, which will have a built in spectrometer. The device will be able to detect components released into the wearer's bloodstream as they are broken down during and after a meal to determine how that will affect mood and physiology.

Nobel also spoke about the creation of an ingestible capsule, called the Smart Pill, that measures blood pressure, PH values and temperatures from within one's stomach and wirelessly transmits that information to a data receiver worn by the individual.

Noting that an individual's genetic makeup is thought to be the key to creating personalized drugs with greater efficacy, Nobel said pending innovations will enable tailor-made, personalised drugs adapted to each person's genetic makeup. He also said medical mobile applications prescribed by doctors for patients to use with their cell phones for self-diagnosis are also being developed.

The potential to create digital copies based on information from our own brains, Nobel said, is not a far off reality. He surmised that it will become possible to "upload our minds to the computer and live forever disease free in a purely digital form".

Organ regeneration

Meanwhile, turning his attention to innovations in treatments, the distinguished researcher shared examples of several emerging products and therapies including human organ regeneration and lab grown organs.

He noted that there is already a cartilage regeneration solution for knees with the potential to regenerate true hyaline cartilage after six months of treatment. Other innovations include the introduction of nano-sized robots injected into the blood stream for repairing cells or for attacking viruses before they infect one's cells, as well as the mind-boggling use of 3D printing to create human parts.

A bionic eye to treat severe vision disorders has already received Food and Drug Administration approval and products such as an anti-bleeding gel, antibacterial fabric and robots with the capacity to draw and analyse blood samples, radiology using 3D infrared signals for very early detection of breast cancer are all revolutionary treatments that are becoming available for improving health care.

Nobel has suggested that Jamaica establishes a joint council of government, academia and industry to lead research and development, the forging of international linkages for research funding and commercialisation of products, researching and developing drugs from natural products, including cannabis, neutraceuticals, and functional foods. He said the council could also focus on generating local funding for research and development in medical technology through actions such as crowd funding, and establishing spas and wellness centres towards the development of health tourism.