Four biotech breakthroughs for a healthier tomorrow

Is living forever still the stuff of sci-fi and fairy tales? Not according to Yuval Noah Harari, media darling of the moment thanks to the astounding success of his non-fiction books Sapiens and Deus. He reckons a century or two of scientific progress could well put immortality within reach.

Whether we’ll want to live forever is another question. But as Harari says, who’s going to argue with living a little bit longer? “Almost anybody would say ‘yes’ if you ask them if they want to live another 10 years in good health. And what we’re talking about is incremental, gradual advances in medicine, which, hopefully, every 10 years allow you to gain another 10 years of good health.”

From the coalface of medical research and biotech, here are four of the latest advances that could have us all living healthier, longer lives.

1. New ammo for the vaccine wars

Vaccines have long been lighting up public debate on and off social channels. But while their safety is in doubt with some, there really isn’t any arguing with no more polio or smallpox, anywhere, ever.

With genomic vaccines that change the way our cells respond to disease, we could be seeing much faster production of vaccines in response to contagious disease outbreaks. This should keep global pandemics right where we want them – in the movies and history books.

2. More than a gut feeling

The buzz about gut-brain-mood connection in the world of holistic health has been getting noisy. And it gives this new microtech development potential psychological benefits as well as physical ones.

Researchers have been taking a closer look at the inside of pigs with this new technology. Trialling a swallowable sensor device with our farmyard friends has delivered data on molecules in their gut as an early warning system for diseases. If it works for humans, you’ll soon be checking in with your gut on your smartphone.

3. Going after the cause of our biggest killer

The leading cause of death in the UK and the US, Alzheimer’s is second only to heart attacks as Australia’s biggest killer. And up until recently it’s been the least treatable of fatal diseases. In the UK, it’s the only illness in their top ten causes of death that doesn’t have a cure or treatment to slow it down.

This dire outlook for Alzeheimer’s patients the world over is about to change thanks to researchers from the University of Cambridge in the UK and Lund University in Sweden. Not only have they agreed on the cause of the illness – small clumps of proteins known as oligomers that attack healthy brain cells – they’re actually developing a treatment to target these toxic particles. Scientists expect clinical trials of new Alzheimer’s drugs to begin as early as 2020.

4. Looking within for a cancer cure

One in three of us will be diagnosed with cancer in our lifetime. We may not die from it, so it’s not up there with Alzheimer’s as a number one killer. But there’s something truly heartbreaking about the randomness of cancer and it seems particularly cruel when it strikes and takes a life at an early age.

But there’s new hope of survival for cancer patients everywhere, thanks to research from James P Allison and Tasuku Honjo. Their Nobel prize-winning immunotherapy is expected to change the way cancer is treated and lead to a reprieve from even the deadliest of tumours. By arming the immune system to go after cancerous cells, it may soon be possible for our bodies to fight off cancer without a chemo or radiotherapy invasion.

Hey there, humanitarian. Want to learn more about how you help advance modern medicine with your super? Check out our Health Fund.

This article is general in nature, and has been prepared without taking into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. You should consider if the information is appropriate and whether you need to speak to an accredited professional.

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Natalee Brown

Natalee runs our Marketing + Content department, leading our creative team here at Zuper. Passionate about mindful living and caring for the body, Natalee is also a Power Yoga instructor who has taught classes and retreats, and practiced in different parts of the world since 2004. As an advocate for physical and mental wellbeing, Natalee knows she isn't supposed to pick favorites, but our Health fund has her heart. Prior to Zuper, Natalee ran campaigns for various agencies and companies in the USA, from start-ups to Fortune 100's Nationwide Financial. On the weekends, she can be found writing for the Zuper blog, bopping around Bondi Beach, or hiking the Blue Mountains.

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