IBM Predicts Smart Computers Will Crunch Our DNA To Keep Us Healthy
Every year, researchers at IBM release a list of five technological predictions that will change the world over the next five years. This year, IBM predicts that faster computers will use their newfound abilities to learn more about us — right down to our DNA. "In five years," IBM says, "doctors will routinely use your DNA to keep you well."
Like Us on Facebook
It may seem more the realm of science fiction: doctors delving into your most essential data for miracle cures. But doctors are actually already using DNA to help treat cancer now. And IBM predicts that the technology will spread to other genetic diseases, including stroke and heart disease.
So if it's being used, how is this a prediction? Right now, the use of DNA is not routine; it's expensive, time consuming, and few doctors have the capability. When malignant cancer is tearing through a patient, there's usually not time to spend sequencing the patient's genome and then diving into the medical journals for obscure potential cures. The process of plumbing DNA to solve health problems — usually cancer — works by mapping the patient's healthy genes. Then doctors map the unhealthy cancer genes to identify the erratic strands. Problem located, doctor sleuths can begin researching treatment methods.
One famous example of this kind of science in action happened last year in St. Louis. A genetics researcher studying DNA sequencing for cancer research was diagnosed with the very leukemia he was studying. As The New York Times reported, his colleagues pulled all the stops: They suspended other research and ran the genome sequencing computers around the clock to find the engine behind his cancer. When they found the problem gene, they got lucky and identified a new drug that shuts down that particular gene. The doctor's leukemia went into remission.
"Today, crunching a patient's full DNA and formulating a targeted treatment plan can take many months if the patient is lucky enough to have access to the right medical team," IMB says. "But within five years, sequencing DNA could take only a day and become the standard of care." With supercomputers that learn particularities in the patients genome and quickly match treatment options, that process could even take minutes. "By using cognitive systems that continuously learn about cancer and the patients who have cancer, the level of care will only improve."
Other IBM predictions this year ranged from classrooms that understand how students learn to same-day retail that moves online shopping back to the stores. The general theme is of faster computers that have the ability to learn. In some cases, the predictions are based on technologies already in development or use, if not widespread use. But they also suggested that each of us will have an online security guardian — a machine that monitors our various accounts, learning our habits, and protecting us from password intrusions or fraud. When a thief uses your credit card to buy gas, "your digital guardian will know that your car has a near-full tank of fuel."
Above photo courtesy of Shutterstock
© 2012 iScience Times All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.