Science Forecasts

(January 12th, 2017) What's in store for science in 2017? Hans Clevers, Francis Levi and George Church look into the crystall ball and make their predictions.

In the Horizon magazine, stem cell expert Hans Clevers from the Hubrecht Institute in the Netherlands foresees optimised personalised cancer treatment, “Since the 1950s, bacteria are isolated from individual infectious disease patients, grown in a dish and exposed to a panel of antibiotics. The antibiotic that is best at killing the bacteria in the dish is then given to the corresponding patient. In 2017, the first results will appear demonstrating that the same approach can be followed for cancer patients: cancer cells taken from individual patients are cultured in a dish and exposed to all existing cancer drugs. The individual patient will then receive the drug that is best at killing his or her tumour cells.”

In the same magazine, oncologist Francis Levi from the Warwick Medical School, UK; is expecting a breakthrough in cancer chronotherapy. In this medical approach, treatments are given at the most effective time for that patient’s body clock. “Coupling cancer chronotherapy algorithms to the circadian clocks in individual patients through a systems medicine approach would expectedly reduce adverse events up to five fold while improving median survival by several months. This is now within reach.”

NBC News asked geneticist George Church from Harvard Medical School, USA, what he thinks will happen in the life sciences in 2017. “(This) year will see great strides in reading and writing genomes, organs, and ecosystems. We'll move beyond small genome 'edits' to large-scale 'writing', with huge practical consequences, including resistance to all viruses. For organs, new microscopy methods will enable molecular atlases of whole bodies during normal development from eggs to adults and pathological states like cancer. Leveraging such body atlases will be recipes for constructing any tissue type and transplanting it successfully between species. For ecosystems, we will see growing numbers of tests of safety and effectiveness of genetic strategies for controlling agents (mosquitoes, worms, mice) of deadly diseases like malaria, filariasis, and Lyme disease. We will also see great progress in the use of genetic engineering to reverse processes that had seemed irreversible: aging and extinction. And super-compact encoding of data into DNA-storage will transform our ability to record video and interface with brains”.

Adapted from: Horizon magazine & NBC News

Photo: Felix

Last Changes: 02.07.2017