Therapy of the Future: Medical Technology Advancements of 2014
Technology is all around us. We hear about the power of upcoming renewable energies, and artificial intelligence and automation in the news. But some of these sweeping changes have made us look past the equally stunning advancements being made in the field of medicine. Here are five potentially revolutionary medical technology advancements made over the course of 2014.
Gigantic strides are being made in the 3D printing of biological tissues–often called bioprinting. Next year, a new thyroid gland will be transplanted into a mouse in an experiment from Russian scientists. We’ve already become adept at bioprinting single cells and short strands of tissue, but this would be one of the first attempts at transplanting an organ. If all goes according to plan, a kidney will be transplanted in 2018. Some scientists even believe that one day, humans will have unique new abilities because of 3D bioprinted organs.
A few years ago, it was predicted that the $1,000 human genome would become available within a decade. In 2014, it’s already possible. Although progress has been slow in decoding specific functions of specific genes, the lower price tag means we’ve hit a milestone capable of speeding up the process exponentially. Someday, we might even be able to use the knowledge acquired from genome mapping to switch on or off the genes which cause certain forms of disease.
A new entry in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences explains that researchers have found a way to coat nanoparticles with a fluorescent glow after linking up with individual cancer cells. This would allow surgeons to perform more accurate surgery when excising tumors. Right now, patients sometimes have to wait weeks, undergoing numerous tests before knowing whether the cancer was completely eradicated.
One of the biggest problems within any scientific field is that of coordination. There is an enormous amount of research being done, and most is applicable to more than one field of medicine. But how do we coordinate that information effectively so that everyone reaps the rewards? DARPA has commenced work on a new “Big Mechanism” that will pull all of the information available from reputable research, journals, and experiments, and aggregate it in a system designed to spit out only the relevant data for new projects. That way, researchers will spend less time revisiting what someone else already discovered, and more time creating novel approaches to fighting disease.
This path of medical science allows researchers to alter the DNA of organisms (think genetically modified food), creating new biological tissues–or even new life forms altogether. New synthetic enzymes recently created from artificial genetic material may lead to advancements that could help treating diseases like cancer and Ebola. Different types of robotics are also making advantages of laboratory automation more accessible to more hospitals. More information in medical robotics can be found here.
It seems that medical advancements are flourishing in every field. The discoveries of 2014 have paved the way to stunning, game-changing breakthroughs that could change the outlook on several previously incurable diseases, extending life expectancy in the process. But we’ll have to wait and see. What will 2015 bring?