Why you should care

These medical breakthroughs promise to transform how we live.

Life expectancy has doubled over the past century thanks to innovations in science and medical care. But the world is still grappling with plenty of health challenges, from tumors and new viruses to addiction and lifestyle diseases.

OZY presents Medical Breakthroughs, an original series exploring today’s breakthroughs — and the people behind them — that promise to transform how doctors treat us and make our longer lives qualitatively better.

Sideburn-sporting Portland, Oregon, researcher Brian O’Roak is steering the world’s largest autism study, working with 50,000 families. The goal? To decipher, over the next three years, how cells develop as a child’s brain grows, and to then fix mutations leading to autism. In Massachusetts, Dr. Shantanu Gaur is expecting Food and Drug Administration approval later this year for a one-of-its-kind pill that expands into a balloon in a patient’s stomach, reducing appetite — and, in turn, weight. British clinical psychologist Rosalind Watts is driving research that, by mid-2020, could offer insight into whether the active ingredient in magic mushrooms could also help treat depression. And medical entrepreneur Joyce Tung is using personal genomics to help parents uncover their baby’s risk for specific diseases, straight out of the womb. More than 5 million people have already used her tests.

More than two dozen labs — from China to Canada and Israel to Italy, and at other research institutions across the U.S. and Europe — are developing nanobots (remote-controlled by doctors) that can swim through the bloodstream to diagnose diseases, kill germs and cure diseases. These nanobots still need to pass clinical trials and gain FDA approval, but scientists are convinced they’re the future of medicine. Doctors and medical research companies are counting on a surge in personalized immunotherapy trials to yield cures that help them treat cancer patients based on the needs of their bodies, instead of a one-size-fits-all approach. The FDA has already approved one personalized vaccine, and others are expected to hit the market by 2023. Optogenetics, a nascent field of neuroscience, is solving decades-old mysteries of the brain and illuminating a path to the regeneration of nerve tissue. And doctors are increasingly turning to a range of low-cost, not-very-sexy but effective tools — from surprisingly successful questionnaires to urine tests — to treat America’s opioid crisis.

Join OZY for a glimpse at how these cutting-edge technologies and strategies are redefining the world of medicine.

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