21 beauty, health, science, and food trends for 20
From virtual-reality hair to liquid bone grafts, Kate Wighton asks our experts to predict the innovations that are in store for us next year
Opening up GP surgery hours
Health ministers have ordered doctors to make themselves more accessible, at times that suit the patient rather than the doctor, so expect that grumpy receptionist to become a little less unyielding.
And as part of the campaign to increase access to your GP, doctors will be encouraged to allow patients to e-mail their symptoms, to be dealt with in a virtual surgery.
More effective disease diagnosis
You will start to hear diseases spoken about in a different way, for example asthmas rather than asthma.
What’s going on? It’s a long overdue recognition that diseases are not usually one uniform condition but may comprise several distinct varieties, each of which respond to treatments in a different way. Recognising a disease phenotype (its physical characteristics) more accurately is likely to lead to more effective treatment.
Access to patient records
Expect a big showdown over access to patient records. Researchers want access to the 50 million records held by the NHS so that they can identify patients with particular conditions and seek their participation in clinical trials. The row isn’t about whether someone should or shouldn’t be included in a trial, just whether they can be approached by researchers, so-called consent to consent.
Critics says this would be a breach of trust and that privacy should be the overriding consideration. Researchers say that using patient information in this way will benefit the health of individuals and society
The prescription pad is dead, almost. More and more traditionally prescription-only medications will become available over the counter next year. These may include antibiotics for cystitis and fat-busting obesity treatments, such as Orlistat.
No brand names, please
From next year the NHS will prepare to dispense only generic non-branded products, even if the doctor issues a prescription using a brand name. For example, when a prescription is handed in for Calpol or a Ventolin inhaler, the patient will receive an unbranded paracetamol children’s suspension or an “own-label” salbutamol inhaler.
Cosmetic surgery for teens
More teens are approaching plastic surgeons to treat embarrassing conditions such as male breast growth and enlarged female genitalia, and doctors expect numbers to continue to grow. Awareness of these conditions has increased in the past year, mainly through the TV and internet, and more teens are realising that these ailments, which start in puberty, are treatable with surgery.
Let’s talk about feelings
Mental health charities expect the financial gloom to trigger depression and other mental health issues, and are encouraging people to address these as early as possible. The charity Mind is launching a campaign targeted at men, encouraging them to be more open about their mental health. Men are four times more likely than women to experience depression after redundancy.
There will be a growth in organ swaps next year. Run by the Human Tissue Authority, “pooled” donations are for patients who cannot find a match within their friends or family. The patient signs up to the pool with a friend or family member, who agrees to donate their organ to someone else in the pool if a match is found for their loved one.
Stem cells and hair
Every hair on our head grows from a follicle and every follicle originates from a stem cell in our scalp. Scientists will next year unveil a new product that protects these stem cells against damage and degradation, acting as an insurance policy against future hair loss. Unfortunately, it won’t treat existing hair loss.
Surgeons predict that body-sculpting - whole body liposuction that radically alters body shape - will be big news. The eight-hour operation slims legs, flattens tummies and removes love handles, and only requires three days recovery. However, new bodies don’t come cheap; the procedure costs about £10,000.
Gone are the days of three types of skin: normal, combination and dry. From next year, scientists will tailor face creams exactly to your skin, by examining your genetics. By taking skins cells from the top layer of skin, via a sticky Sellotape-like strip, scientists hope to delve into the genetics of a person’s skin cells and tailor face creams to their individual biology.
Every recession seems to encourage women to look jollier. Cue fluorescent make-up, Mintel, the market research group, predicts that it will be one of the top playful distractions next year.
Virtual reality hair
Hair products that have been developed using virtual hair will reach the market.
By analysing the hair of 3,000 people in 80 countries, scientists have formulated a computer model of a full head of hair, taking into account its mechanical and physical properties. By simulating different atmospheric conditions, such as wind and rain, researchers will use this system to develop hair styling products that will effectively de-frizz, smooth or volumise.
Next year will by the year of slim children. Researchers have realised that most overweight children are already obese by the age of 5, and so the diet and lifestyles of pre-schoolers will be under the spotlight. Expect more ranges of pure, natural and health-boosting toddler foods to hit the shelves. Plus researchers will be investigating how a pregnant woman’s diet affects the health and weight of her child in later life.
Food will taste better. Scientists will develop eating strategies that enhance flavour, in an effort to help people to consume less. One team recently revealed that eating ice cream from a cone tastes better that eating it from a spoon, as the mixture forms a thin layer across the whole of the tongue. Expect more techniques next year. Plus, chefs are predicting spices to make a comeback, as people will be buying cheaper cuts of meat.
Experts believe that chocolate sales will thrive as people seek respite from the financial doom and gloom. And yet scientists are warning that our favourite sweet may be in peril, with the cacao tree blighted by disease and drought. Researchers will get busy investigating how to save the tree, and decoding its DNA.
Expect a big push for an improvement in animal health and welfare. As food production becomes increasingly industrialised,
the food chain is feeling the pressure. Experts believe this is leading to bugs, such as E.coli, and other contamination slipping into food production. The best way to prevent this from happening, they say, is to go back to the source of the food - the livestock - and ensure that animals are reared in healthy living conditions and are vaccinated against disease.
Research by supercomputer
Scientists will be using supercomputers to find new drugs for diseases. The Grid is a network of 11 computing centres in ten countries, which together create the greatest data processing capacity ever seen. It was designed to process data from the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland, the facility investigating the origins of the Universe, but scientists are hoping to use it in the coming years to crunch reams of data from biological experiments, and create a shortlist of the drugs that are most likely to offer the potential for disease cures.
The US President-elect, Barack Obama, looks likely to lift the ban on providing public funding for human embryonic stem-cell research. This will allow American universities to perform research on the controversial cells, paving the way for new treatments for a range of conditions, from spinal cord injury to Parkinson’s. Further, after years of anticipation, it is widely believed that the first human trial of human embryonic stem cells will begin next year. The American company Geron is hoping to get federal approval to conduct a trial of stem cell treatments in spinal cord patients.
Artificial carers for the elderly
In an effort to cope with the ageing population, scientists will next year investigate how to harness the power of technology to allow people to remain in their homes for longer.
One avenue of research is computer carers. A team of Canadian researchers recently developed an artificial intelligence system that prompts people with moderate dementia to wash their hands.
Sniffing out cancer
The enose - an array of sensors on a chip that react to the molecules in the air, pictured below - is soon to be used in health: the enose will “sniff” exhaled breath to monitor lung infection. Coming soon is a test for lung cancer, depending on the presence of certain chemicals in the breath.
Scientists are hoping finally to get to grips with the neuroscience of addiction, to find out why some people are more prone to addiction to others, whether it be drink, drugs, nicotine or gambling. And considering that these vices become more common in an economic downturn, this research is urgently required.
Scientists have developed a form of liquid bone that can be used as a bone graft in surgery. The toothpaste-like substance, developed by the Nottingham company Regentec, is injected into the body and hardens within 15 minutes The material degrades and allows new bone to replace it gradually. The mixture may enter clinical trials next year.
PANEL OF EXPERTS
Simon Crompton Medical Editor
Vivienne Parry Science Writer
Keith Hopcroft GP
Martyn Lobley GP
Mark Walport, Chief executive, Wellcome Trust
Leszek BorysiewiczChief executive, Medical Research Council
Janet Allen Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council
Ben Sykes, Coordinator UK National Stem Cell Network
Association of Medical Research Charities (AMRC)
Professor Peter Johnson Chief clinician, Cancer Research UK
Patricia Pineau Scientific director L’Oréal
Sophie Corlett Policy director, Mind
Dalia Nield Plastic surgeon
i still have like most of my hair and i get alot of compliments on my hairstyles and have maintained for like 2 years now but knowning that im protected for a LONG time will give me so much mental releif like not having to constantly worry if im every going to start losing my hair again. …IF this product is real. also it says it wont affect existing hairloss…does that mean it wont prevent you from losing hair if the process has already started and your just maintaining on prop or dut??? or does it mean it will maintain what u already have and not regrow???..i kno it sounds confusing lol but ok say you have to two people one is like 10 years old and he has a baldness gene which will start the balding process at 20. and you have a 23 year old who started going bald like three years ago and still has good density and doesnt really look like hes going bald, he got on meds when he was say 21. would this new product only work for the 10 year old whos balding processs hasnt started yet or can it also work for the 23 year old whos balding process has started but he maintained with propecia or dutasteride for these two years?