January not only ushered in a new year, but also a promise-filled decade. Arguably, one of the most exciting industries to watch in the coming years will be healthcare, which underwent unparalleled change since 2010 and is poised for continued disruption in the next 10 years.
A standout development of the decade was its embrace of personalized health insights based on individual health metrics pulled from wearables or mail-in testing services. However, with so much more opportunity available to us beyond data collection, we now stand ready to move knowledge into action in the decade ahead. This is quickly being enabled by services that empower individuals to not only know their health data but take control of it in ways never before possible.
Direct-to-consumer (DTC) genetic testing has served as a major catalyst for this movement, enabling millions of people to determine their ancestry and genetic makeup from the privacy of their homes. These tests not only provide visibility into one’s origins and disease risk; they put the power to live and age well directly in the hands of the individual by giving them data that has the potential to aid informed lifestyle decisions.
The problem is, many people do not know what to do with the information. Genetic tests inform predisposition to a range of diseases – metabolic, neurologic and cardiac disorders, as well as certain cancers – but falls short of its potential value landing in isolation from the rest of the person’s state of health. As a result, recipients are left to act – sometimes drastically – on limited information. For example, the BRAC I and BRACA II genes, which indicate an elevated risk for breast cancer entered the national consciousness as a result of celebrities like Angelina Jolie, who underwent a double mastectomy upon learning she carried the genetic mutation.
Individuals are no longer satisfied with the data itself. They want to use it to control their health journey as they age, on their own terms. They want to intertwine their genetic information with other health indicators, such as those found in their blood, to create an actionable set of data that they can use to make lifestyle decisions that can counter genetic predisposition. Studies clearly show that for most diseases, genes are not fate on their own.
The Promise of Cell Therapy
A growing body of scientific research continues to prove the power of cells to foster control of the health journey through regenerative therapies. These essential biological starting materials, particularly stem cells, have the potential to develop into many types of specialized cells for various applications, including fighting disease, repairing bodily damage and even rebuilding damaged tissue.
Doctors have been using stem cells to treat certain types of blood-based cancers for decades. Today, experimental applications for cell therapies extend far and wide, with researchers studying how to use these cells to treat some of the world’s most elusive conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, heart disease and even the most common age-related blindness. Although the field is still relatively young, it is poised to grow exponentially over the course of the coming decade. In fact, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) attested to the surge, anticipating up to 200 clinical trial applications for cell and gene therapies per year starting in 2020 and approving 10 to 20 cell and gene therapy products a year by 2025. Moreover, there are currently more than 1,000 advanced therapy clinical trials underway across the globe, according to the Alliance for Regenerative Medicine.
Personalized Medicine Enters a New Age
Cell therapies can enable a new age of therapeutics that was never thought possible; however, they rely on access to healthy and pliable cells. As we age, stem cells incur damage, becoming less effective at fighting disease and less adaptable to becoming other cells. Moreover, older cells are more likely to carry abnormalities due to environmental and lifestyle factors or errors acquired by the cells during replication.
Ultimately, our healthiest cells are those we have right now. By preserving them through the process of personal biobanking, individuals give their future selves access to the best possible biological starting materials for all manner of regenerative treatments – current and future.
Cells stored at our healthiest are likely to be of the highest quality and utility, increasing the chances of successful treatment. What’s more, this type of contribution eliminates future risk of rejection of donor cells because they are our own cells. GoodCell firmly believes that advanced therapies will continue to mature and expand to encompass more therapeutic categories, and that the ability to preserve one’s life-saving cells will only grow in importance. As such, personal biobanking stands to become a critical health milestone by 2030, much like we have seen with the HPV vaccination, mammograms, and colonoscopies.
Healthcare will innovate and evolve in many ways this coming decade. As it does, the desire to take control of our health will only strengthen. Enter personal biobanking, a field marked by the ultimate customization element: you. The best cells for your healthiest future are your own. You may not need them now, but biobanking these cells is the best way to ensure you can take advantage of the latest advances in medical science and cellular therapy – with the highest chance for success – when you do.