Twin studies have long been the mainstay of medical and psychological research.
Twin studies have been used to assess the genetic susceptibility of individuals to certain disorders and diseases.
However, finding twins that are willing to participate in research studies is very hard.
Thankfully, the metaverse may soon come to the rescue of researchers who use twin studies to understand physical and mental health conditions.
Futures Intelligence Group’s chief metaverse officer, Cathy Hackl, had quite a lot to say about the subject at the ATA2022 in Boston.
Metaverse to Change Health Research as We Know It
Hackl said the metaverse is going to change healthcare as we know it.
One of the metaverse’s most important functions is to create virtual models of twins so that their biological entities can be simulated.
She offered to call these virtual twins “digital twins”, and went on to describe that metaverse’s most important healthcare function is to create such digital twins.
These digital twins will help researchers to simulate health conditions and integrate information from real-world counterparts.
These digital twins can be used for several medical and health-related purposes.
How Can Digital Twins Help in Medical Research?
Digital twins can be used by the pharmaceutical industry to test new treatments, reducing the time gap between drug discovery and drug approvals.
In addition, experimental treatments can be ethically tested without having to subject real twins to unethical research studies as in the past.
Hackl also said that surgeons can use holograms to perform surgeries without actually harming anyone.
These surgical experiments can lead to new forms of treatments that are currently unknown.
In other words, it is a combination of real and virtual medical experiments minus cruelty and ethical issues.
Twin Studies in Psychological Research
For a long time now, psychologists and psychiatrists have attempted to study mental health conditions using twins.
For instance, much of what we know today about schizophrenia is the result of twin studies.
Studying twins with schizophrenia revealed that there is a strong genetic component, which is often triggered by environmental factors such as stressful situations.
Twin studies have also shown that certain other mental health issues such as depression, borderline personality disorder, and anxiety tend to run in families.
While twin studies have always been important in the field of mental health research, psychologists often did not have access to ethically study twins.
It was practically impossible to gain consent or willingness to participate in longitudinal and cross-sectional studies.
Thanks to metaverse-enabled digital twins, it is now possible to study various mental health conditions by simulating them in the virtual world.
While Hackl did not speak much about mental health studies, the truth is out there in the open.
If one can perform virtual surgeries using holograms, and study various pharmacological treatments on digital twins, it is also possible to study mental health conditions using the same biological digital twins.
Metaverse May Prove to Be the Biggest Game-Changer in the Field of Physical and Mental Health Research
Health researchers have long found it difficult to find participants for medical research.
As a result, they have often resorted to cruel animal testing and laboratory research, which often goes against ethical standards.
Thanks to metaverse-enabled digital twins, it is now possible to simulate biological twins in the virtual world.
In addition, holograms can help surgeons to perform virtual surgeries and discover new treatments.
Moreover, psychologists and psychiatrists can find newer ways to study the genetic basis of various mental health disorders without having to recruit actual twins.
These developments will lead to newer treatment modalities that are less cruel and more ethical.
While one can avoid having to search for twins willing to participate, digital twins on the metaverse can also reduce our dependence on animal testing.
In short, metaverse will make healthcare research more humane and ethical, and lead to better treatment outcomes.