A Crystal Ball For the Decade Ahead

Thursday, January 9, 2020
A whimsical retro postcard from the future.

With a new decade dawning, Duke Today asked several Duke professors to hypothetically gaze into their crystal balls to tell us what they see happening in the years ahead. CAGPM director Geoff Ginsburg gave his perspective on what he thinks precision medicine will look like in a decade. 

Health Care -- Circa 2030

By Geoffrey Ginsburg

Following his heart attack, Jeff had his genome sequenced as part of a new employee health benefit. His wife and children were also sequenced as part of their participation in the All of Us Research Program.
The genome sequencing of Jeff’s wife revealed a number of gene variants that protected her from cancer. But Jeff’s history of heart disease and his genome data showed he had genetic variants for familial high cholesterol, which affects 1 in 250 people in our population and is what caused his heart attack.  

Two of his children carry the same genetic variant, which is why his son Jack sent a stem cell sample to a company to develop a personalized physiologic model -- “Jack-on-a-chip” --  which was used to select the drug most likely to reduce Jack's cholesterol with the fewest side effects.  

Jeff’s daughter, Jill, elected to undergo a new gene-editing procedure in which the genetic defect in the LDL receptor (responsible for removing cholesterol from the blood) is corrected and obviates the need for lifelong drug therapy.

Jeff has taken control of his risk for heart disease with genetically selected medications and a virtual health coach who helps him adhere to his lifestyle prescriptions. Smart phone and smart home devices help him and the coach monitor his physical activity, food and calorie/fat intake, sleep duration and stress.

One day Jeff awakens with a fever and sore throat and, after a conversation with a chat bot, is directed to swab his nose, place the swab on a biosensor attached to his phone and use the “I have a fever” app. The app indicates he is developing the flu, so does not need antibiotics and recommends he stay home from work to not infect coworkers. His GPS and sensor data are uploaded to the cloud where data analytics are used to model the potential for an emerging viral epidemic in his community. His data also alerts Amazon to drone-deliver Tamiflu and chicken soup to take care of his flu symptoms. A modern-day house call, you might say.

View full story on Duke Today.