According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heart disease and cancer are the two leading causes of death [PDF] in the U.S., making up over half of the 2,443,387 deaths that occurred in 2002. Could the top two killers of Americans eventually be eradicated (along with many of the other leading causes of death)? There may be reason to be hopeful.
Medical researchers at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden have reported evidence that mice can be vaccinated against [defunct link] the build up of plaque in their arteries. Human trials of the vaccination could begin in two years, perhaps leading to a treatment for children that would vaccinate them from heart disease later in life. Such a treatment could theoretically have a lesser but still important effect in adults as well.
Meanwhile, the number of specific cancers targeted by new drugs has been rapidly increasing over the past couple years. Some of these drugs have shown incredible results early in human trials. Also, new treatments using technologies such as gene therapy and stem cell injection are showing great promise over a wide range of diseases.
Life expectancy is now at a record high and death rates are at a record low, due in large part to incredible advances in medicine. Human life expectancy may or may not be affected by the cures for various diseases, but it appears quality of life will be. For a daily dose of the latest research and breakthroughs with a life extension bent, check out the Betterhumans webzine [defunct link].
Kochanek, Kenneth D., Murphy, Sherry L., Anderson, Robert N., and Scott, Chester. Division of Vital Statistics, National Center for Health Statistics, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Deaths: Final Data for 2002.” National Vital Statistics Reports [PDF] 53.5 (12 Oct. 2004)