This is an archived file from the Spring 2022 version of the course.
See the current course website for a more recent version.

Class 23: Programmable Pharmacueticals


Project Update: due Tuesday, 19 April, 4:59pm. An update on how your project is going, any changes from your original plans, and summary of what progress you have been able to make. (A link to a form for submitting this will be posted on April 18.)


Slides: class23.pdf

Causes of Death

There was a great question about what fraction of all deaths are accounted for in the statistics I showed from Our World In Data. The source of most of the data is the Global Burden of Disease Study (mostly funded by the Gates Foundation). My understanding is that the statistics do attempt to assign a cause of death to every death, but are using a lot of imputation to do it. According to Global burden of 369 diseases and injuries in 204 countries and territories, 1990–2019: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2019,

Input data were extracted from censuses, household surveys, civil registration and vital statistics, disease registries, health service use, air pollution monitors, satellite imaging, disease notifications, and other sources. Cause-specific death rates and cause fractions were calculated using the Cause of Death Ensemble model and spatiotemporal Gaussian process regression. Cause-specific deaths were adjusted to match the total all-cause deaths calculated as part of the GBD population, fertility, and mortality estimates.

They make many adjustments and corrections to the reported data to account for all sorts of biases in it (full details in this 1813 page Appendix 1, and available source code. This should, of course, raise concerns about how closely the statistics used match the reality, but it is the best data we have.

For specific countries such as the US, there is more standard and perhaps more carefully collected data. You can see the CDC form doctors in the US fill our for cause of death: Instructions for Completing the Cause-of-Death Section of the Death Certificate. It does require at least one cause of death to be filled in, and discourages use of anything like “natural causes” as the cause of death:

The elderly decedent should have a clear and distinct etiological sequence for cause of death, if possible. Terms such as senescence, infirmity, old age, and advanced age have little value for public health or medical research.

The “manner of death” includes Natural as an option (with the others being Accident, Suicide, Homicide, Pending investigation, and “Could not be determined”.

If you’re interested in exploring causes of death more, this is a (morbidly) great site (based on the CDC data): How Will I Die?.

Logic goes in vitro:

Advances in Applications of Molecular Logic Gates: