04 May 2010
Scientist says plant molecules will replace chemicals in drug–making
Taking a discerning audience at the ‘Healthcare outlook 2050’ at IIT Madras forward on a time machine, Bhargava said the average lifespan of a person in India in early 1900s was less than 30, now it is 68– and increasing. “By 2050, we may not have a life expectancy of 150 years, but we will know what we must do to live that long,” he said, noting that genetics will be at the base of all therapies.
Quoting from research papers published worldwide, Bhargava substantiated each of his predictions. While talking about smell as a diagnostic tool, he said: “Dogs were found to be sniffing some individuals more than others. Researchers have found out that dogs cannot differentiate between identical twins by sniffing. A series of observations have showed how smell could be a potential diagnostic tool. There have been startling observations like how menstural cycle of women living in the same dormatories coincide,” he said.
He also predicted how drugs and vaccines would be cheaper because most of the newer range of drugs would be plant–based medicines. “More than 40,000 chemical compounds were being discovered each year until three decades ago. Last year, it declined to 15,000. After two decades, we might have none from chemical compounds. Plant–based molecules therefore will be the primary source. We would also see an increase in drugs like probiotics (good bacteria) and pepticides,” he said. Plant–based molecules will make vaccine research and manufacturing cheaper and hence more affordable.
He also felt that there would be a decrease in “unscientific” medical practices. What seemed to have impressed the audience is his sense of reality. “We must understand that there is no escape from diseases or disorders. While new viruses will continue to emerge, throwing new challenges – the only thing most doctors can do is slow down or prevent progression of diseases like cancer or disorders like diabetes,” he said.
Medical science, he said, has come a long way since the 1900s when there was no diagnosis, very few drugs and minimal surgical interventions by people like Sushrutha and Charaka. In the next 40 years, there were dramatic changes, including vaccination against communicable diseases like small pox and cholera, development of diagnosis and discovery of several antibiotics. In the last 50 years, there has been a gaint leap in terms of prevention, diagnosis and treatment. “We have understood disease profiles better. We know several causative factors for the diseases. But we still have a long way to go,” he added.