Hepatitis C has become a rare disease in the U.S.
Hepatitis C is an infectious disease affecting primarily the liver, caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV). The infection is often asymptomatic, but chronic infection can lead to scarring of the liver and ultimately to cirrhosis, which is generally apparent after many years. In some cases, those with cirrhosis will go on to develop liver failure, liver cancer, or life-threatening oesophageal and gastrointestinal damage. HCV is spread by blood-to-blood contact from intravenous drug use, poorly sterilised medical equipment, transfusions, body modification (such as tattoos or piercings) and high-risk sexual activity.
The existence of hepatitis C (originally identified only as a type of non-A non-B hepatitis) was first suggested in the 1970s and proven in 1989. By the early years of the 21st century, an estimated 150–200 million people globally were infected. Those who developed cirrhosis or liver cancer required a liver transplant in some cases. However, in many regions of the world, people were unable to afford treatment as they either lacked insurance coverage or the insurance they had would not pay. In the United States, the average lifetime cost of HCV was estimated at over $33,000, with a liver transplant costing approximately $200,000; and more than 15,000 deaths were attributed to the disease each year.
Standard approved treatments were able to cure 50–80% of patients. However, a new generation of medicine was emerging, based on nanoparticles* and direct-acting antivirals* – able to target specific virus enzymes. This was alongside trends showing improvements in access to treatment, and more aggressive screening guidelines. By the 2010s, over a hundred new medications were being researched and developed. By 2036, only 1 in every 1,500 people in the U.S. are infected with HCV.**
In-vitro meat is a mature industry
in tissue engineering have made it possible to "grow" synthetic meat, using single animal cells. This first became affordable to the public in the 2020s.** After years of further testing and refinement, a wide range of different meat products are now available, in what has become a rapidly expanding market.*
In-vitro meat has a number of advantages. Being
just a lump of cultivated cells, it is produced without harm or cruelty to animals. It is unusually pure and healthy
whilst retaining the original flavour, texture and appearance of real
meat. Perhaps most importantly, it requires far less water and energy to produce, greatly lessening the impact on the environment.
crops, there were political and psychological
hurdles that delayed its adoption in some countries. However, rising food prices caused by population growth and ecological impacts, together with endorsements from animal welfare groups, later gave impetus to its development. Though still years away from completely replacing traditional meat, it is now a mainstream product in most countries around the world.
disease is fully curable
for Alzheimer's developed in the 2020s reduced the risk of acquiring
the disease by more than half.* Now, thanks
to pioneering efforts, a further decade of progress is yielding effective cures. Drawing from a myriad of long-term
studies, researchers have identified the precise mechanisms and processes
involved in the loss of neurons and synapses in the cerebral cortex
and subcortical regions. Faulty genes can be "switched off" with a new generation of drugs, while the brain itself is regenerated using stem cells.**
was aided in part by reverse-engineering
of the human brain, which provided researchers with a complete model
of its neurological system down to the cellular level. Nano-scale robotics are now increasingly common in medical procedures and these can precisely target individual cells.**
to combat Alzheimer's is one of the great success stories of the 2030s.
It comes at a time when dementia rates are soaring, with cases predicted to quadruple in the four decades from 2010 to 2050.*
eyes surpassing human vision
yet to become mainstream, bionic eye implants are now available that
not only restore sight, but actually exceed human vision. This breakthrough
has been made possible due to exponential advances in sensor technology,
computing and neuroscience.
generation of these implants began appearing in the 2010s.* They were somewhat crude initially – providing only a pixelated view
of the world and requiring the use of glasses frames for mounting the cameras.
generation, however, is such high resolution that it far exceeds the
sensitivity of natural human eyes, and is physically indistinguishable
from the latter. Gigapixels of resolution can be captured and transmitted
to the optic nerve into the visual centres of the brain. Externally
mounted cameras are no longer necessary – these have been miniaturised
by a factor of thousands and incorporated within the eye itself.
eyes will soon begin to offer more than just ordinary sight. They will
be capable of providing infrared vision, for instance, for improved
health and safety in night-time situations. They will include video
recording capabilities, serving as the ultimate in portable webcams.
The convergence of Web 4.0 and augmented
reality will enable users to receive detailed information on their surroundings,
just by looking around them.*
of these implants is dropping substantially, thanks to exponential improvements
in price performance. Costing tens of thousands of dollars in earlier
decades, they will soon be available for less than $100.
Kiryushchenkov | Dreamstime.com
probing and mapping of the Kuiper Belt is underway
in telescopic power have revealed countless new bodies in the Kuiper
Belt, many rivalling Pluto in size. At the same time, a new generation
of solar-sail technology is emerging. Spacecraft using this form of
propulsion were first demonstrated in 2010.
Much larger versions are now being deployed. Some have membranes extending
hundreds of metres, with greatly improved thrust-to-mass ratio – up
to 50 times higher than in previous designs. This is made possible through
nanotechnology and space-based production of sail panels.*
in the footsteps of New Horizons,
a series of these probes is now being sent to the Kuiper Belt, which until now was largely unexplored. Close range studies are conducted
on a number of the ancient, icy planetoids of this remote region.*
telescopes and longer-range probes, humanity is penetrating ever further
into the depths of space. Astronomers are now forming a highly detailed,
extremely accurate map of our Solar System as a whole.
Lemurs are on the brink of extinction
After years of decline, the vast majority of the world's 103 species of lemur are facing extinction. This has been the result of decades of sustained deforestation, mining, hunting, and slash-and-burn farming on Madagascar – their only natural habitat on the planet. By now, very little of the island's original forest cover remains. This has forced lemurs and countless other species into increasingly small and isolated patches of liveable habitat.*
In earlier decades, a number of efforts were undertaken which attempted to preserve the remaining populations. The effectiveness of these projects was severely limited by the social and political climate of Madagascar. Government corruption and the impotence of law enforcement meant that any restrictions on deforestation and poaching were poorly enforced or outright ignored. The extreme poverty of the nation also forced many inhabitants to turn to the forests to illegally cut wood or dig for gold in order to support themselves. Many hunted lemurs for food as well.
Today, the majority of remaining individuals can be found only in zoos and private collections. Lemurs are now joining the ranks of the radiated tortoise* and many other species disappearing from Madagascar. By the middle of the 21st century the island will have experienced one of the most dramatic mass extinctions in human history. This will occur alongside many similar events throughout the natural world.*