Could AI Make a Disease-Free World? – Voice of America – VOA News

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Artificial intelligence is rapidly transforming the medical landscape, igniting hopes of finally defeating devastating diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer’s.

“I think we are very close. I would say we are a couple of years away from having the first truly AI-designed drugs for a major disease, cardiovascular, cancer,” Demis Hassabis, Google DeepMind CEO, told Hard Fork, a weekly technology podcast.

The next leap in artificial general intelligence, or AGI, with its human-like cognitive capabilities, promises to revolutionize medicine and drug development. Already, tech giants such as Google are employing AI and AGI in pursuit of new drug discoveries.

“We’ve just signed big deals with big pharma and on real drug programs. And I expect in the next couple of years, we’ll have AI-designed drugs in the clinic, in clinical testing,” Hassabis said.

The medical community is abuzz with the potential of AI to reshape their field.

However, some experts, including Nadia Akseer, a scientist at Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health, caution that a completely disease-free world may be elusive.

“The disease process is ever evolving, and so while these technologies can help in today’s context, we really don’t know what the future holds, whether it’s global pandemics or changing disease patterns due to climate change,” Akseer told VOA.

Despite these caveats, AI’s influence on health care is already profound. AI-powered machines enhance diagnosis and treatment, with doctors relying on AI for tasks ranging from image analysis to interpreting lab results.

With AI features evolving at lightning speed, doctors and clinicians anticipate a wave of transformative changes in the near future.

“AI has serious potential to improve the human condition by improving how we practice medicine and deliver health care,” Zak Kohane, chair of biomedical informatics at Harvard Medical School, told VOA by email.

Kohane listed several areas where AI can expedite diagnoses, suggest treatments that a human doctor might overlook, and even predict patient responses to therapies based on factors such as a tumor’s unique genetic makeup.

“We will likely see the rise of AI tools that are able to track tell-tale changes and fluctuations in a patient’s record that may portend risk for certain complications of an existing condition or for the emergence of conditions years before they develop,” Kohane said.

While exciting, these advancements bring challenges. Experts such as Akseer point out the risk of AI widening existing health care disparities across the globe.

Regulatory frameworks may also prove a hurdle to rapid progress in this field.

“Ultimately, AI is a means to an end. What we do with this tool is up to humanity, to society as a whole. There needs to be political will in order for many of the benefits to be realized,” said Kohane.

“In that sense, AI is a critical tool but not panacea.”

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