Historically, if you were born in the early 1900s, your life expectancy was around somewhere in your 40s. Fast forward one short century, and you can expect to live 80 long, fruitful, happy years. In fact, the NIH predicts that we might be able to keep pushing that lifespan.
But how is this possible? What is helping us live longer? Did we finally discover the fountain of youth?
Well, longevity experts have revealed several factors that could help increase our longevity, and one of these elements is an advancement in technology, particularly personalized medicine. As the founder of a life extension-focused fund —which accelerates longevity breakthroughs — I'm always looking at the technological advancements that could extend the human lifespan.
I have seen various personalized medicine technologies that have the potential to disrupt life sciences in the next three to five years to help people live longer and healthier lives and make longevity more accessible and affordable. Here's what I've learned at the intersection of personalized medicine and tech.
What Is Personalized Medicine?
Think of a Netflix account for your medical treatment. Netflix is known for its hyper-targeted, hyper-personalized algorithmic viewing recommendation. The movie recommendations, whether a crime, romance or thriller, are based on your previous viewing history, previous preferences and current movie choices. Personalized medicine is similar in that the medical treatment is customized and created to fit your individual characteristics, needs and unique molecular and genetic profile.
Personalized medicine comes in many forms; however, from my perspective, the building blocks of that personalized medicine rely on a critical component — data. And data can be collected by wearable technology and AI.
What are wearables? Wearables include smartwatches, such as Apple Watch; fitness trackers, such as Fitbit; sports watches, such as Garmin; AR head-mounted displays, such as Oculus; and the ultrafashionable AR/smart glasses, such as Microsoft HoloLens.
Wearables can completely change the work of health care and well-being professionals. For example, the Apple Watch can give you an electrocardiogram (ECG) heart report, or call an ambulance if you have had a hard fall. My Fitbit guides my meditation and breathing, and nags me to move every hour. Other wearables can also measure your heart rate variability (HRV), activate your parasympathetic nervous system or nudge you to maintain a good posture. Health care-oriented wearables can also track necessary signals, such as vital signs, blood sugar level or blood pressure for diabetics.
Wearables have been demonstrated to influence better outcomes for our health. The Greater Dayton Regional Transit Authority rolled out the "Fitbit Health Solutions" pilot program for their bus drivers. In this program, the company handed out Fitbit fitness trackers to its participants and offered "biometric screenings, health coaching, goal setting and participation incentive." Fitbit provided participants with fitness goal-tracking capability that made them more accountable and motivated. At the end of the study, the participants benefitted from a 17-point drop in glucose level and a 12-point drop in LDL cholesterol.
Wearable devices clearly mirror the personalized medicine trend by offering a valuable way for us to track and analyze our health data. Daily and weekly personal progress reports — such as the ones offered by Apple Watch and Fitbit — track metrics including activity minutes and quality of sleep to encourage lifestyle habits that can lead to healthier and longer lifespans.
AI Takes The Wheel
Artificial intelligence, as the name suggests, is how smart a machine is. The poster child for AI is Google's DeepMind.
DeepMind is a company that has created a computer system that mimics the short-term memory of the human brain. It has the potential to gather vast amounts of data, form its own hypothesis (similar to how a human can) and provide highly accurate outcomes. Unlike human physicians, who may be swayed by human error, DeepMind is objective and strictly evidence-based.
Accurate early diagnostic measures are crucial to surviving a potentially terminal illness. DeepMind, in partnership with the Veterans Affairs (VA), developed technology that can predict life-threatening illnesses 48 hours earlier than a physician.
One of my organization's portfolio companies at the forefront of AI in drug discovery is Insilico Medicine, which demonstrated how its AI engine could generate a drug candidate in just 46 days compared to the typical two to three years required using the standard approach used by the majority of pharma corporations.
Helping to save lives and to extend healthy years of our lifespan could be one of the most important contributions of AI to health care today.
Through personalized medicine delivered via technology, we have the capacity and potential to extend our life expectancy. Due to advancements in AI and wearables, quicker and better diagnoses, effective and personalized treatment, and unprecedented technological advancements, humans may be able to live past 100 in the near future.
The original version of the article was published on Forbes