Over 100 million Americans are affected by a kind of neurological illness. Such conditions result in over $800 billion in annual costs. Likewise, over 40 million in the U.S. suffer from mental illness or psychiatric disease. The impact of psychiatric diseases is similarly profound, affecting not only individuals but families and society at large.
Together, these conditions comprise the field of neuromedicine. However, neuroscience offers tremendous hope. Rapidly advancing neuroscience technologies promise an array of new diagnostics and interventions that could dramatically change neuromedicine of the future. Bold leaders in the neuromedicine field plan to make this a reality sooner than later.
Advances in Immunology and Neuroscience
Two renowned scientists have received this year’s Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Their discoveries of immune checkpoint proteins revolutionized cancer treatments through focused antibody therapies. These same techniques have already advanced care for brain cancers within neuromedicine today. Neuroscience, however, has other notable immune system advances as well.
For example, neuromedicine research is exploring the link between organisms in our intestinal tract and our brain’s functioning. Our intestines are home to 80 percent of our immune system. This area of neuromedicine, in addition to new antibody therapies, hold great promise for the future.
A Bold New World – Stem Cells and Gene Therapies
The use of stem cells in neuroscience continues to advance rapidly. By using stem cells, defective cells causing a disease may be replaced allowing better functional abilities. Alternatively, stem cells can be used in neuromedicine to protect function by adding cells that compensate for faulty ones. Stem cell treatments are being explored actively in neuroscience for conditions like Parkinson’s disease and ALS.
Notably, gene therapies and precision medicine are making huge impacts in other areas of healthcare. The same will apply to neuromedicine as well. For example, genes may be turned “off” or altered to treat neurological disorders like epilepsy and neuromuscular disease. Genome projects are also identifying a number of new biomarkers for neuromedicine conditions. These advances will permit earlier detection of risk or disease that can better prevent or slow onset of illness.
Pictures Are Worth a Thousand Cures – Neuroimaging Developments
For decades, neuroimaging advances have radically changed the practice of neuromedicine. The future of neuromedicine will see more of the same in this regard. Currently, the combination of high-resolution MRI with functional tracers using PET scan or other techniques is revealing bold new insights. New neuroscience has evidence about poorly-defined conditions like schizophrenia and fibromyalgia and how they are being exposed through these techniques.
The advances in neuroimaging go well beyond diagnosis, however. In fact, neuroscience projects are actively trying to define a neural connection map of the human brain. Specifically, the researchers at the Child Mind Institute are combining anatomical, functional and diffusion MRI data for this purpose. Neuromedicine projects like this could completely change our understanding of neurological and psychiatric disorders.
New Technologies, New Approaches in Neuromedicine
Several new developments in neuroscience are expanding the possibilities for future neuromedicine care. For example, transcranial MRI-guided ultrasound therapies could completely change the treatment of some brain and spine cancers. These techniques not only avoid incisions and radiation, but they are more precise and reduce recovery times. Other new technologies involve electroceuticals. Low-powered electrical devices are being researched for conditions like pain, depression, Parkinson’s disease, and others.
Naturally, machine learning and artificial intelligence are already making an impact in neuromedicine. AI is being used in neuroscience research to help identify patient risks in developing mental health disorders like depression. Also, “smart” brain stimulators are being evaluated treatments for a range of neurological and psychiatric illnesses. These implantable wireless devices manipulate brain signals in an effort to attain better patient outcomes. As increasing amounts of data are integrated, these “big data” systems could rapidly advance neuroscience research and neuromedicine care.
The Future of Neuromedicine Is Needed Now
At present, over 1,000 known neurological conditions exist in the world today. Many of these conditions are degenerative illnesses that develop later in life. With a global population that is rapidly aging, advances in neuroscience are needed sooner. Fortunately, advances in neuroscience research and neurological care are happening quickly. There are over 500 new drugs for neurological illnesses currently being tested by American pharmaceutical companies. Without question, innovation in the neurosciences is at an all-time high. Not only is the neuroscience landscape boldly expanding, but an array of companies and researchers are leading the way. For this reason, the future of neuromedicine is looking brighter than ever.