A look ahead: Health and medicine trends for 2014

The year 2013 brought many big developments in health and medicine. What will 2014 bring?
BY STEPHEN PRESCOTT AND ADAM COHEN For The Oklahoman Modified: December 30, 2013 at 4:25 pm •  Published: December 31, 2013
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Adam's journal

The year 2013 brought lots of big developments in health and medicine.

Scientists recovered DNA from the bones of a human who lived 400,000 years ago.

President Barack Obama announced a major initiative to unlock the mysteries of the human brain, and similar efforts are underway in Europe, Israel, Australia and China. Sequestration hit U.S. medical research hard, but we still saw major breakthroughs in the use of gene therapy to treat cancer.

So are you ready to open up the fortune cookies and tell us what 2014 will bring?

If nothing else, I sure hope we'll see a cure for wanting to stay in bed in the morning instead of getting up and working out.

Dr. Prescott prescribes

Yeah, I wouldn't hold your breath on that one. But — the room darkens and eerie music begins to play — for 2014, I see:

1. The rise of the 3-D printer

Sure, you've heard all about “printing” a working gun or a pair of distinctive high heels. But big — and, I'd argue, more important — strides are also being made in using this technology to print human organs. Using a coating of adult stem cells to reduce the chance of rejection, we'll soon be treating sick patients by transplanting printed skin (easiest) and blood vessels (harder). And in the not-too-distant future, we should be able to save lives by replacing diseased organs with printed stomachs and bladders and, ultimately, hearts, livers and kidneys.

2. Gut check

Inside each of us are roughly 100 trillion bacteria. Ewww. Put another way, for every human cell residing within us, there are roughly 10 resident microbes. So while we may think of ourselves as human, we're really 90 percent germs, most which live in our gut. Through initiatives like the Human Microbiome Project, scientists will make great leaps in understanding how microbes shape our health — and how we can shape them to make ourselves healthier.

3. Gene therapy