A look ahead: Plans for our November 2035 issue

What events will we be highlighting in the 60th Anniversary issue of the Harvard Health Letter? Prophecy is always fun — and hazardous. But since many of us won't be around to see how well we've done, here goes:

Over the next 30 years, it seems very likely that the tools of molecular biology will identify the genes that make us vulnerable to many of the most common diseases — including Alzheimer's disease, atherosclerosis (which causes heart disease and stroke), many forms of cancer, and diabetes. The hope: This knowledge will lead to prevention strategies and cures. Telling which diseases will "fall" first to the power of genetics, however, is beyond the ability of our crystal ball.

Beyond battling disease, 21st-century biological science may help us answer fundamental questions about the human condition. It may take more than the next 30 years, but it seems likely that sometime in the next 100 we'll master the biological basis of thought, consciousness, and memory. We've only just started sorting out the chemical signals that shape our moods and attitudes. In simpler animals, several such signals have been discovered in the past few years. Scientists have identified molecules that influence aggression versus collegiality, trust versus mistrust, attentive versus inattentive care of offspring, even fidelity versus infidelity toward mates. A better understanding and control of the chemical forces that make us human holds promise and peril.

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