Nanorobots, genetics, stem cell research, and bionics are some innovative developments in medical technology that have changed the face of medicine completely. Here are a few of these new techniques and advancements that foretell a healthy future.
Over the last fifty years, rapid advancement in scientific research and development has led to increased involvement of technology in treating and diagnosing patients and fighting diseases. Blood pressure detecting devices, MRIs, CT scans, and keyhole surgeries are just a few examples of technology helping humans invent machines and devices to extend the life of patients, reduce risks, relieve pain, and diagnose and monitor human diseases or disorders.
The use of technology is ever-increasing, and is set to grow by leaps and bounds in the near future, thanks to the extensive use of faster communication, and greater access to knowledge and information. Here, we have tried to profile a few technologies of the future that are sure to change the way we humans perceive diseases or illness and treatment.
From the early 1950s, when the structure of the human DNA was first discovered, medical breakthroughs have come fast. Here are some of the achievements that medicine has made in the last fifty years or so, thanks to various advancements in technology.
|1953 – 1955||Kidney Transplant Surgery|
|1955 – 1959||First Portable Pacemaker|
|1960 – 1964||First Use of Beta Blockers for Hypertension|
|1965 – 1969||First Heart Transplant|
|1970 – 1974||Birth of Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)|
|1975 – 1979||First Test-tube Baby Born (UK)|
|1980 – 1984||DNA Fingerprinting|
|1985 – 1989||Tissue Engineering and Laser Cataract Surgery|
|1990 – 1994||Hepatitis A Vaccine|
|1995 – 1999||Stem Cell Therapy and Human Genome Draft Completed|
|2000 – 2004||Artificial Liver and Telesurgery|
|2005 – 2009||Bionic Eye (visual prosthetic) and a Full Facial Transplant|
|2010 – 2013||First Lab Grown Kidney and DNA Diagnosis for Newborns|
|2013 – 2020||What Next?|
Nanorobots and Targeted Cell Therapy
Targeting a certain part of the human body for treatment will be easier with the help of nanobots. The removal of cancerous cells, and delivery of the drugs to specific parts of the body can now be performed by doctors, thanks to this technology. Anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can also be treated easily, with precise doses of drugs delivered at the cellular level in any part of the body. Early diagnosis of diseases like cancer may be possible with the help of nanoparticles.
Gene manipulation, gene therapy, and genetic enhancement can be opted for treating a host of life-threatening medical conditions that arise due to a single defective gene. Research is also being done to find answers to aging, physical and mental capabilities, intelligence, and increasing life expectancy in general. These may also include introducing a new gene in the body to help fight disease, replacing a defective gene causing diseases or disorders by a healthy copy of that gene, knocking out a mutated gene that is not functioning properly, or for the treatment of diseases that are incurable. Genetic testing will prove to be beneficial for many people. By understanding their genetics, one can make necessary changes in their lifestyle, habits, and mannerisms to improve their health.
Robots play a vital role in modern medicine. They are used to train the next generation of doctors, nurses, dentists, etc. Using robots, surgeons can make smaller incisions for shorter surgeries that will minimize blood loss during a surgery, lessen pain, and reduce healing time. It will reduce hospital stay and costs, and make patients feel easier and comfortable. Errors and malpractices will also be greatly reduced. Robots help monitor the progress of every patient. They help support, comfort, and protect elderly patients in the initial stages of dementia.
Most of the time wrong diagnosis of a disease leads to various problems in patients. Robots are able to perform tests that include sample collection, CAT scans, etc.
A medical emergency needs to be effectively handled with a quick response time. Utilization of new technologies to assist in such medical emergencies are being considered. Monitoring and overseeing the health of people, especially the disabled or elderly, is a growing necessity today. A recent iPhone add-on has been developed that lets physicians take an electrocardiogram for diagnostic purposes. It reads heart rhythms and relays the recording to an iPhone app. Some smartphone applications allow patients to observe moles for signs of skin cancer, and help radiologists read medical images. There are even applications that educate the reader about first-aid to be given so as to effectively handle emergency situations. A hand-sized ultrasound machine has also been developed that allows physicians to image a person’s kidneys, liver, bladder, eyes, veins, and arteries to detect any problems.
Artificial arms, legs, ears, eyes, and other body parts will possess microprocessors and computer chips that can be controlled by the brain and autonomous systems of the body. The brain-computer interface plays a major part in the success of these prosthetics. This interface interprets signals from the brain and stimulates neurons to function correctly by controlling artificial limbs. Researchers are also developing neuroprosthetic chips that can control seizures and help correct conditions like paralysis and epilepsy. The chip will be implanted in the brain tissue, where it will decode the signals and stimulate proper functioning of the brain in patients suffering from these conditions.
Neurostimulation and Brain-computer Interface
Neuroprosthetics and brain-computer interfaces look forward to achieve the same aims such as restoring vision, hearing, communication ability, movement of limbs, etc. These technologies may prove beneficial for movement disorders like Parkinson’s disease, depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, epilepsy, paralysis, cluster headache, persistent pain following back surgeries, phantom limb pain, etc. Neuroprosthetics connect the nervous system, or any part of it, to the device, whereas brain-computer interfaces connect the brain (central nervous system) with a computer system. The empirical methods and surgical techniques used by both are similar. The technologies in use today include cochlear implants to aid hearing, visual prosthesis to restore vision, pacemakers to control the rhythm of the heart, and devices to treat migraines and chronic pain in the limbs and back.
Organs can be recreated using stem cells, and scientists predict new breakthroughs in stem cell research that will help replace aging, worn, or damaged organs with new ones. Regenerative medicine promises to extend the healthy lifespan of an individual and improve the quality of life by supporting and activating the body’s natural healing processes. Scientists worldwide are engaged in research that may help replace the skin of burn victims, help regenerate pancreatic tissues to produce insulin for people with diabetes, and even repair brain cells. Stem cells may also be used for treating Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases, spinal cord injury, heart disease, stroke, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis.
Looking at the way medical technology has advanced, it is not impossible to imagine a day where most of our dreams, including eternal life, become reality. Here is a list of some technologies that may be possible in the coming future.
☤ Artificial Wombs
☤ Computer-Aided Diagnosis
☤ Drug Delivery Devices
☤ Physical Control Devices
☤ Minimally Invasive Procedures
☤ Genetic Diagnostics
☤ Personalized Drugs
☤ Bioengineered Devices
☤ Virtual Medicine
☤ Extended Life
☤ Synthetic Life
☤ Designer Bodies
☤ Biostasis – Cryogenic Sleep
☤ Human Cloning
☤ Virtual/Robot Medicine
☤ Instant Pain Relief
☤ Artificial Immune System
☤ Bionic Implants
☤ Human Body Morphing
☤ Creation of Organisms
☤ Enhanced Senses
☤ Superhuman Alteration
These are just some of the medical technology advancements that are changing the world of medicine. According to researchers and scientists, the future holds a new key to medical therapy that unlocks new personalized treatments and early diagnosis.
Biotechnology, genetics, nanotechnology, etc., are fast-emerging fields in which research is still being done, and new innovations and technologies created. New enhancement techniques could rejuvenate the old, keep aging at bay, protect against cardiovascular diseases, cancer and other life-threatening illnesses, improve memory and problem solving, and provide us with safer and better medical science. All these medical technologies are just the tip of the iceberg, contributing to a magical and healthy world that we can look forward to in the near future.