Doctor's hand holding a wrinkled elderly hand

Chemistry will play an increasingly major role in managing health, particularly as populations live longer.

The challenge is staggering. It is projected that, by 2020, the USA alone will spend 685 billion USD per year in direct medical costs for people with chronic diseases. By 2050, this figure may become as high as USD 906 billion and as many as 16 million people could be affected by Alzheimer’s disease by 2050. And that’s just one illness in one country.

Chemistry will be crucial in finding ways to not only devise new treatments, and even cures, but also to ensure early detection of the onset of chronic diseases such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s among many others.

Work is well under way to develop technologies such as a bacterium that deliver biomolecules to compensate for the patient’s deficiency which causes the illnesses.

This could expand further to the development of biomaterials that detects the warning signs before the onset of the disease.

Then there’s the search for the ‘perfect drug’, the Holy Grail of medical research, the major drugs that work without any side effects.

We may be a long way from such breakthroughs but when they do occur, and they will, you can be sure that chemists will be there in the thick of it.