The Next Ten Years

By: David A Fein, MD
Medical Director

This month Princeton Longevity Center is proud to celebrate our 10 Year Anniversary.

From the start, many of you were quick to recognize the vital role of the new technologies offered at PLC in taking preventive medicine into a new realm.  Others called us charlatans and tried to defend the status quo.  Today, we are very pleased to see coronary calcium scans, cardiac CT angiography, virtual colonoscopy and many other tools that were at the cutting edge now becoming widely recognized.

We have seen the value to our patients using state of the art technology to enhance early disease detection.  We are about to enter a fascinating and revolutionary time in medicine’s ability to predict future disease and provide individualized treatment.  Here are a couple of my predictions for where the science of preventive medicine is heading in the next ten years.

With today’s ultrasound, CT and MRI scanners, we are able to visualize internal organs with unprecedented detail.  The leading killers, cardiovascular disease and cancer, are being diagnosed earlier than ever, when treatment is more likely to be effective.  The technologies to come are going to move us past what our eyes can see into the realm of microscopic disease.

New imaging modalities utilizing lasers and light will allow us to visualize details too small to be seen with current scanners.  Researchers recently presented their findings at the Optical Society Annual Meeting using Optical Coherence Tomography in a hand-held scanner to non-invasively create 3-D images on a microscopic scale.  The device can see bacteria behind the eardrum or measure the thickness of the retina to detect the earliest eye complications from diabetes.  Undoubtedly, the uses for this technology will rapidly multiply in coming years.

Raman Spectroscopy measures the scattering of laser light from tissues.  Hand-held scanners using this technology are already in use in Europe and allow doctors to quickly, painlessly and accurately differentiate skin cancers, including melanomas, from less dangerous skin lesions and moles.  The same technique has been shown to be highly accurate in early detection of cervical and oral cancers.

Nanotechnology is taking the medical laboratory from the size of an office building down to the size of a single chip.  Researchers at Kansas State University recently announced a blood test using a chip with iron nanoparticles coated with amino acids that interact with specific enzymes in the patient’s blood.  The test can accurately identify the beginning stages of lung and breast cancer.  The researchers expect to soon have a test available for pancreatic cancer.

Initially, these tests will be useful for those who are in high risk groups. In the coming years this kind of testing will become cost-effective and accurate enough to allow us to detect cancers at a microscopic stage, before they have spread.
Along with other new imaging techniques and advances in genetic testing, we expect the next 10 years to usher in an unprecedented ability to detect disease at the earliest stage and initiate treatment long before symptoms occur.

While our ability to predict disease continues to improve, the past 10 years have seen another revolution whose impact is just beginning to emerge.  We have gone from cellphones that often could not even complete a phone (making “Can you hear me now?” was an effective advertising campaign) to a digitally interconnected world where the internet and all the social media it brings are constantly at everyone’s fingertips.

Smartphones have become much more than communication devices.  “Apps” are being developed that will allow doctors to stay in touch with their patients and monitor the state of their health on a daily basis.  This will mean better control of conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes.  “Virtual office visits” will utilize video conferencing and downloadable diagnostic tools to make medical professionals available their patients right in the comfort and convenience of their home or office.   Mobile “apps” will also provide Princeton Longevity Center with tools for helping our patients to achieve their goals for living a healthy lifestyle and preventing disease.

We live in interesting times where the pace of change continuously accelerates.  There are amazing advances just over the horizon that are sure to change how we live and how we age.  Our goal at Princeton Longevity Center is to keep our patients at the forefront of these exciting new technologies.   Stay tuned