Anti-ageing in a pill, plant-based meat, bionic hearing. Be ready for what's coming with health
We want communities and localities to be capable of making great decisions about their future - and that future is coming from a number of angles. One of them is certainly the challenge of biotech innovations - and particularly health technology. The promises don't always materialise in this sector, but it's good to check in occasionally.
We want this to be an input to a new politics. If the possibilities arise that humans can be enhanced positively - longer lives, nimbler brains, more energy - as much as our ailments remedied, how do we ensure these benefits spread out to everyone in society who wants access (and not just the super rich?) And: When do we citizens give ourselves the right to start dreaming of what these possibilities might be for us, our communities and our planet?
Medium's new FutureHuman magazine is running some amazing editorial over the month of July - well worth catching up on - and they have produced this article on the future of health. It has eight items, and is US based, but here's the three that most interest us:
What it is: Between 2016 and 2017, the market for plant-based products grew 8 percent to $5 billion. It’s not just about building a better-tasting un-burger for finicky vegans; plant-based meat is said to be a boon for the planet — livestock emissions are responsible for 14.5 percent of global greenhouse gases and it takes 26 pounds of animal feed to produce one pound of beef.
What’s the sell: Lab-created meat is no longer the stuff of science fiction, and it’s far more palatable than it may sound. By reconfiguring plant proteins to mimic animal muscle in taste as well as behavior, from the way it crackles on the grill to color changes when cooked, agripreneurs have brought their non-burgers to mainstream supermarkets and restaurant chains that range from David Chang’s Momofuku to White Castle.
Impossible Burger’s key ingredient is heme, a molecule present in the blood and muscle of animals, as well as in some plants (Impossible pulls its heme from soybean roots). One hitch: A March World Health Organization survey of studies evaluating cancer and red meat reported "strong evidence” that eating heme can aid in the formation of carcinogens in the gut.
What’s next: While Beyond Meat is now developing plant-based, lab-grown bacon and steak San Francisco-based Memphis Meats is working on perfecting cultured meat — actual beef, chicken, and duck meat grown in a lab from animal cells — no actual livestock required — with investor cash from Tyson Foods, Richard Branson, and Bill Gates.
Anti-aging in a pill
What it is: Self-described by its MIT creators as “the world’s first cellular health product informed by genomics,” Basis by Elysium Health is a mail-order daily supplement that’s been making waves in the rapidly emerging field of life-extension science. The claim is not immortality but simply the possibility of extending one’s vital years, by putting off of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and other afflictions of age.
Quackery? Hard to say: Though the supplement is some 25 years in the making, it’s been human-tested for less than five, including on Elysium Health cofounder Leonard Guarente, who also serves as the director of MIT’s center for aging research. That said, the company has an impressive roster of Nobel Prize winners on its scientific advisory board and has attracted more than $25 million in funding.
What’s the sell: Two pills a day purportedly target DNA repair, cellular detoxification, energy production, and protein function by converting nicotinamide riboside into nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+), a coenzyme critical to metabolism that diminishes with age. While the real test of any antiaging elixir is increased longevity, many users report immediate benefits that include better sleep, speedy injury recovery, and the mysterious disappearance of those rough elbow patches, with few noticeable side effects.
What’s next: The company is said to be working on products that target brain and musculoskeletal health.
[Note: for more on this, we recommended looking at The Abolition of Ageing, a full-length book on the topic by our friend, and founder of London Futurists, David Wood]
What it is: The world is getting noisier. Scientists say the level of human-generated background buzz has doubled every three decades. Hearable technology aims to help not just those 48 million Americans with hearing loss but those who can hear just fine and simply want to hone in on a certain sound in a noisy room, for instance, or mute a bothersome din.
What’s the sell: Bose’s “conversation-enhancing” earphones, called Hearphones, and Harman’s Everest JBL headphones were created to help people hear conversations in noisy environments: adjust the bass at a concert or block out that crying baby three rows behind you on the plane. Waverly Labs’s Pilot Earpiece takes the tech one step further, letting people who speak different languages understand one another. Bose has also released its long-anticipated noise-masking Sleepbuds, a high-tech twist on ear plugs that offer soothing white noise sounds to help you deal with that loud breather in bed next to you.
Noise cancellation technology filters out background sounds, while a smartphone app lets users control volume and tonality for sound quality and speech recognition. In the case of Waverly’s Pilot Earpiece, machine translation does the heavy lifting.
What’s next: Some industry experts talk of a future where hearing aids call on A.I. and sensor technology to become multifunctional health monitoring devices.
Intrigued? Want to know further about machine-learning skincare, mainstream microdosing, CBD coffee, organ-chip technology, and er, robot sex? The rest of the piece is here.