A View to the Future
Laboratory medicine is leaping ahead – so where will it go next?
Michael Schubert | | Opinion
Welcome to the start of another year! I’m sure I’m not the only one among us who, every January, wonders where the time has gone. And yet, a glance at the world around me adjusts my viewpoint.
In fact, science and technology are moving along so quickly that it’s hard to believe some changes have taken place in only a year. We have brand-new, high-resolution photographs of the surface of Mars. We have artificial intelligence whose reading comprehension exceeds that of humans. We have cloned monkeys, grown human ova in the laboratory, identified skeletal stem cells, completed the 100,000 Genomes Project, and even produced (with significant uproar from the scientific community) the world’s first genetically edited babies.
Clearly, laboratory medicine has played a large part in the scientific advances of the past year – albeit perhaps not on Mars. But where do we go from here? With the pace of scientific advancement rapidly increasing, what are the next steps?
In 2018, we saw the start of the first trials using CRISPR-based T cell modification to fight cancer. We saw the advent of liquid biopsies that can detect multiple common cancers even before symptoms emerge. We mapped the complete connectome of the fruit fly and identified multiple potential therapies for neurodegenerative diseases. We launched the Earth BioGenome Project, an ambitious, decade-long initiative that aims to sequence all known species on Earth. Will those promising starts bear fruit in the near future?
When I speak with researchers about their up-and-coming projects, the strongest message they send is hope – for the future of their patients, for their discipline, and for science and medicine as a whole. New discoveries seek to spare patients pain and discomfort, increase their chances of a long and healthy life, and reduce the mental, physical, and financial toll of ill health among a growing, aging population. So I put the question to you (and invite your responses at firstname.lastname@example.org): where do you think pathology and laboratory medicine are going in 2019 and beyond? What do you think the next important advance will be? And how can individual practitioners help forward the goals of the field?
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