VTT 3.2009 A m Ag A zine on technology, science A nd innovAtions IT for health? turning biomAss into fuel p.56 is grAphene the new silicon? p. 46 fitness with fibre p. 64 SCIENCE & FORESIGHT VTT turns science into profitable business. This section of VTT Impulse shows how multidisciplinary research leads to innovations (pp.16-40).EDITORIAL Hans Söderlund Research Professor VTT Health technologies for a better life Health-supporting technologies are diverse and they have a multidisciplinary background. Rapid progress in molecular biology and genetics provides a solid basis for the discovery of novel drugs and new diagnostic markers. New types of drugs have become available, such as therapeutic proteins. The massive amount of data generated within life sciences has resulted in the rapid advancement of computational sciences. Developments in electronics and microfluidics have given us effective diagnostic tools. Thanks to these modern technologies, a vast amount of information can be collected from the human body. Advanced technical solutions for a better life can be created by combining biotechnology and ICT technology. VTT's role in the health and well-being network involves bringing in a multitude of technologies, while our collaborative partners offer the clinical contribution. One of our core competences is systems biology. Here, the key idea is that the workings of any living organism depend on an enormously complex network of signals and linked reactions. Any change can affect every element in a complex system. Systems biology becomes reality in laboratories where scientists measure as much as they can to discover the roles of genes, proteins and other biomolecules. This involves measuring all the activities related to metabolism, which provides the organism with energy and the necessary building blocks for growth. This is followed by computational efforts to build a model of the chemistry of life. At VTT, the systems biology approach is used in many ways. For example, we have high content screening systems to find potential cancer drugs by using automated cell culture systems and three-dimensional cell cultures mimicking organs. It is applications like these that force us to develop novel analytical tools to collect the data. The systems biology approach is not limited to drug discovery: it also gives us diagnostic tools. We find markers, specific molecular signatures in our body, which may be indicative of a given disease or an increased risk for it. These data can be beneficial in the analysis of lifestyle risk factors, such as dietary habits. Technology may help us manage our diseases or to improve our health. However, technical solutions should not be in the driving seat when it comes to health care. Technology should improve our lives not take them over. The costs of health care are constantly rising, and decision makers must continually address this issue when allocating resources. With such an array of available solutions, the cost structure of health care may become unsustainable. For that reason, technology development must always focus on human aspects and technical solutions should be directed to affordable cures. Otherwise there is a risk of returning to a time when health care was only available to a privileged few.
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