The High-Tech Medicine of the Future May Be Biased in Favour of Well-Off White Men 

The promise of precision medicine is that all sorts of information about you—your genetics, ethnicity, diet, even neighborhood—could be used to create highly personalized treatments for whatever ails you, replacing the one-size-fits-all medicine of the past.

Doctors hope this will make everyone healthier. But a new report by the Data & Society Research Institute in New York says certain groups in the US are in jeopardy of being worse off when medicine is tailor-made. The one group notably not at risk: white men who can afford health insurance and a decent lifestyle. So who stands to lose?

 

Forecast of Genetic Fate Just Got a Lot More Accurate

There’s never been data available on as many people’s genes as there is today. And that wealth of information is allowing researchers to guess at any person’s chance of getting common diseases like diabetes, arthritis, clogged arteries, and depression.

Doctors already test for rare, deadly mutations in individual genes. Think of the BRCA breast cancer gene. Or the one-letter mutation that causes sickle-cell anemia. But such one-to-one connections between a mutation and a disease—“the gene for X”—aren’t seen in most common ailments. Instead, these have complex causes, which until recently have remained elusive.

 

Despite Push for a Universal Flu Vaccine, the ‘Holy Grail’ Stays Out of Reach

It is the holy grail of influenza science: a universal flu vaccine that could provide protection again virtually all strains instead of a select few. 

A burst of recent headlines has suggested we might get one soon. Experts, however, say we’re really not there yet. And to be honest, we can’t necessarily even the there from here. 

 

Curing Blindness With Stem Cells — Are We There Yet? 

In 2006, Nature published a paper describing how stem cells could be used to restore sight in blind mice. This study, and similar subsequent studies, created a lot of excitement about the potential of stem cells to cure blindness in humans. Fast forward 12 years and we still don’t seem to be quite there – one notable human clinical trial in Japan was stopped in 2015 due to a risk of tumour development in a patient’s eye. So are we any closer to using stem cell therapies to treat blindness, or will we always be “ten years away”?

 

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Stuff to Read, Week 9