double helix

The unintended consequences on healthcare systems of a Brave New World?

The Royal Society of Medicine’s Medical Innovation Summit 2011 was held on the 25th June and presented an eclectic mix of topics (videos are available here) ranging from the use of genetically engineered sterile mosquitos to control dengue fever to the use of “Plumpy’Nut” as a food to treat acute malnutrition in the community; via pluripotent stem cells to treat cancer and skin cell sprays as a better option than grafts for treating skin burns. It was a stimulating way to spend a Saturday and a powerful illustration, as one of the speakers said, of the innovation that can come from combining knowledge and specialists from different fields of science.

But as I was marvelling at the amazing potential of combining the fields of genetics, cell biology, immunology, materials science and engineering I began to wonder what the effect of all this would be on the delivery of healthcare. What would be the impact on today’s healthcare system of introducing these technologies? There would be obvious benefits for patients from regenerative and reconstructive technologies but would there be unintended consequences on the delivery system?Continue reading