19.12.2018 change 19.12.2018

Researchers on the future challenges of science

Photo: Fotolia Photo: Fotolia

Ensuring medical care for a growing and aging population, feeding 10 billion people, using waste as raw materials - these are some of the challenges that science will face in the future, conference participants said in Warsaw.

During the debate "How science responds to the challenges of the future", scientists and representatives of Bayer, the organizer of the meeting, spoke about the future challenges of science.

"The world`s population is expected to reach 10 billion in 2050. The number of 80-year-olds will triple; aging societies expect that the lives of seniors will be decent and good. The growing population, concentrated mainly in cities, means an increase in food demand by about 50 percent. Meanwhile, only 0.5% of the Earth`s surface is suitable for growing crops. In addition, agriculture must face climate change, shrinkage of resources and soil erosion. We need to find new ways and science will be one of them" - said Bayer CEO Markus Baltzer.

"Telemedicine will certainly be an answer to the challenges of the future in the context of aging societies" - said Dr. Marcin Grabowski from the 1st Cardiology Department and Clinic of the Medical University of Warsaw. - "Telecare and mobile apps provide the possibility of remote care for chronically ill patients. Thanks to implantable devices, such as a pacemaker or defibrillator - enabling monitoring the patient`s condition - the person does not have to physically come to see a doctor. Devices provide information on patients who, for example, fall or do not leave the house for a long time. Concepts such as smart homes for the elderly or infirm are also implemented. I am convinced that the future trend will be mobile applications and sensor-based solutions that collect data from the body. They offer the possibility of improving health, they can support and educate patients".

According to Dr. Grabowski, modern medicine, in particular cardiology, falls into the trap of its own success. As he explained, patients who in the past would not survive (for example, heart attack patients) are now being treated better and earlier. But this leads to a growing the population of chronically ill patients and people at an advanced age with many co-existing conditions. "While it is obviously a success, we have to look differently at the challenges of the health care system. The average age will shift towards the elderly, requiring coordinated, long-term care. They accumulate problems with peripheral circulation, kidney function and co-existing diseases” - he said.

According to the expert, another achievement of cardiology is the improvement of social awareness of healthy lifestyle. Older people who are physically active are now more common. "From my own experience I can add that often people who care about their fitness, appearance or hygiene - are also people who care about their internal organs and diet, choose the optimal food" - he added.

"Unfortunately, the problem of civilization diseases is often the problem of poor societies: people who are affected often not only live in worse conditions, but also have worse diets. Healthier, high-quality food is more expensive, so people often save money on it. We certainly need further education on how to eat healthy and cheap" - said Dr. Grabowski.

Professor Zbigniew Brzózka from the Department of Medical Biotechnology, Warsaw University of Technology, noted that it is better to treat the cause of the disease than its effects. "For over a dozen years, we have been observing a completely new phenomenon - more and more recipients would like to know the probability of specific diseases. This is associated not only with genetic tests, but above all the concept of big data - collecting data from various areas of medicine. Based on analyses of these data it is possible to determine the probability of occurrence of various diseases in a given patient in the future - diseases with not only genetic, but also metabolic background As an engineer, I ask myself whether in the era of self-health care the public would like to know the probability of certain diseases" - he said.

He explained that this is not about "knowing the future", but rather about learning about the probabilities that can cause lifestyle changes in help make the right decisions.

"As an engineer, I think that the preferred goal is creating new tools, but these tools should be used by doctors. Doctors should also be the ones to interpret the results. Dr. Google will not cure us" - said Brzózka.

Marek Posobkiewicz, former chief sanitary inspector, emphasized that people use the Earth`s assets too indiscriminately. "We can produce a lot of safe, tasty food that we can store for a very long time - which used to be impossible. Of course, this is related to the proper way of preserving this food, but it does not solve the global problem of hunger. We don’t know how to share" - he said.

Posobkiewicz pointed out that over one billion tons of food are wasted every year in the world. The majority of losses are caused by consumers in industrialized countries: 13% food bought in Europe ends up in the trash, and in the United States it is almost 16 percent.

According to Dr. Piotr Oleśkowicz-Popiel from the Institute of Environmental Engineering, Poznań University of Technology, one of the biggest challenges of modern economies are climate changes related to the intensive use of fossil fuels, as well as ensuring energy and materials security and independence.

"The answer to these challenges is to use something that the society no longer wants: waste" - said Oleśkowicz-Popiel. As an example, he mentioned a new, environmentally friendly technology for the production of biofuels from wastes from cheese and yoghurt production, recently awarded the AgroBioTop award by the Biotechnology Committee of the Polish Academy of Sciences.

"Thanks to the method of processing waste acid whey to caproic acid using bacteria, it is possible to produce biofuels (including aviation fuel) and biochemicals with neutral greenhouse gas emissions" - added Dr. Oleśkowicz-Popiel. He noted that the use of waste "also affects the diversification of sources of energy". He added that caproic acid has many properties that are potentially useful for the pharmaceutical, perfumery and chemical industries.

PAP - Science in Poland, Paweł Wernicki

pmw/ zan/ kap/

tr. RL

Copyright © Foundation PAP 2019