WGS 2016: New Technologies Can Prevent Age-Related Diseases

Thursday 11 February 2016

Dubai - MENA Herald: With the wake of diseases such as cancer, diabetes and hypertension, researchers are looking for innovative ways to use science and technology to redesign life in order to improve the well-being of people of all ages. Leading a discussion on doubling human life expectancy and the impact of machine learning, Dr. Brad Perkins, Chief Medical Officer at Human Longevity Inc., said that one of the world’s greatest stories was doubling human life expectancy over the last 150 years, a result of our ability to control childhood affection diseases.
In his session on the concluding day of the World Government Summit (WGS 2016), he highlighted the new and profound challenges the medical and science community face to continue the extension of human longevity.
“We are now faced with epidemics from age-related chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s. Three-quarters of our investments in healthcare go to finding cures for these epidemics. A new approach is required to overcome these challenges and define the next frontier in acceleration of human longevity.”
Dr. Perkins commended the efforts of Craig Venter, who he said was the most important contributor to understanding the Software of Life, our DNA code. Adding to his accomplishments of sequencing the full genome and defining the microbiome, Venter created synthetic life in 2010. He wrote the software code in form of a SNA sequence, built the DNA material and inserted it into a membrane, creating a self-replicating form of life.
Scientists can only examine a fragment of the genome in the Software of Life, only able to understand 3.2 billion base pairs across the human genome. Visionary physicians and scientists such as Dr. Perkins aim to examine the diploid genome, where they can explore 4.2 billion base pairs and get the full characterization of the Software of Life.
In order to create this unique opportunity, a number of technological advancements need to converge. With the cost of full genome sequencing declining dramatically from US$100 million dollars to US$13,000 today, scientists are presented with the opportunity to innovate these new technologies. The availability of reasonably prices cloud-based computer power help scientists store and manipulate vast data sets.
Dr. Perkins emphasized the importance of machine learning as a critical technology. Although not a new technology, it has demonstrated a great potential to transform industries that have an availability of rich data.
“We have to move from a volume-based healthcare system to one that values human longevity and preventative measures.”
The Software of Life consists of all the instructions that build, operate and reproduce our bodies. The challenge, according to Dr. Perkins, is that scientists don’t know how to read the software. Overcoming this challenge will fuel medical progress, defer age age-related chronic diseases and lead to long and healthier lives.
Searching for breakthrough advances to make human longevity a reality, Human Longevity Inc. (HL) aims to hack the Software of Life. HL’s integrated database uses whole genome sequence analysis, advanced clinical imaging and innovative machine learning combined with a comprehensive curation of personal health data to deliver profound insight on individual health that will drive the next generation of pharmaceutical and medical industries.
With a cloud-based platform, HL can integrate genomic, microbiome and metabolomics data with clinical data and expose this data to machine learning at a very large scale.
Dr. Perkins highlighted the challenges with translating the language of biology from a sequence state into a language of health and disease. Addressing this challenge, HL could map a person’s face composition from their genetic material. HL can also predict certain human features including gender, weight and height just by listening to a recording of voices.
“With machine learning, scientists can connect medical genome to sequence data and, therefore, understand the fundamental causes of aging. By comparing physiological to chronological age and building direct medical intervention methods for age, we are closer to preventing age related diseases.”
Using MRI technology to test whole genome sequencing, scientists have access to high quality images that can help quantitate data body functions and assess risk prediction for diseases such as diabetes and Alzheimer’s.
According to Dr. Perkins, the medical industry must begin to shift from a single disease model to one that addresses basic causes for human aging in order to extend life and reduce chances of frailty and illness at older ages.
Extending life and therefore work life can have an impact on cost, but governments can overcome these challenges by deferring entitlement and healthcare spending.
“We now have the science and technology to define the next frontier in human longevity. The biggest barrier is complacency – satisfaction with the status quo. Representing a large part of our economies, the healthcare system is hesitant to change the structure of its function to accommodate new opportunities. I urge leadership to get us to the next frontier of health and medicine. The only way we can collectively benefit from controlling infectious diseases is if the leadership, whether that be government leaders or health care organizations, step up and guide populations to the next level.”
The World Government Summit has convened over 3,000 personalities from 125 countries. The summit concludes today (February 10) at the Madinat Jumeirah in Dubai.

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