In the past few decades technology, and how we interact with it, has come on in leaps and bounds. Where most of us were still using rudimentary web design to personalize social media profiles just ten years ago, our online presence has now become a sophisticated and lucrative market. With this in mind, it can be difficult to gage how technology will progress even in the short-term. Things that might seem like fads today could evolve into essential tech of the utmost importance in just a few years.
If there’s one thing we can be certain of, however, it’s the need for ever-improving healthcare and medical technologies. The past few years have seen the release of wearables like FitBit into the mainstream market, and their success and personal health monitors. But wearable technology is capable of a lot more than just counting our steps. Further to that, biometric technologies can give us the ability to track the body’s status from within. Here are just some ways that upcoming medical technologies could save our lives in the near future.
Cancer Detection: Catching Diseases In Their Earliest Stages
The fight against cancer has preoccupied medical science for decades. While it’s uncertain how much closer we are to a cure, improving technologies could help immeasurably when it comes to early detection and prevention.
The past few years have seen a push towards lab-on-a-chip and lab-on-a-fiber technologies; smart nano-devices that can be implanted into the body, and wirelessly transmit the data they collect to medical professionals. IBM has been among the forerunners of this tech, announcing in 2016 their development of a microchip that can collect and screen exosomes released by cells for traces of cancer. Lab-on-a-fiber technologies seek to operate in much the same way, but with materials that are better-suited to direct implantation into veins and muscle tissue than chips.
Ingestible Medications: Tracking Your Health and Informing Your Doctor
It’s all well and good for doctors to prescribe medication to treat an illness, but how can they be certain that their patients are following the instructions they’re given? In the near future doctors might be able to receive smartphone notifications when their patients have successfully taken their meds, thanks to Abilify MyCite.
The anti-psychotic pill reacts when it come into contact with stomach acid, powering a small circuit and communicating wirelessly to the healthcare professional that the pill has been consumed.
Similar tech was utilized by researchers at MIT and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in the creation of an ingestible health-tracker. The pill consists of a voltaic cell which is powered by the stomach’s acid, and which collects data on the patient’s health. This could include detecting traces of diseases, as well as monitoring a patient’s blood chemistry.
These technologies could allow doctors to stay up to date on a patient’s recovery, even remotely, as they would have access to the patient’s vitals and other information from the comfort of their own homes. It’s an enormous breakthrough, that could drastically change the way we receive medical care in the near future.
Artificial Organs: Wearable Synthetic Organs For a Number of Conditions
One condition that is being especially targeted by wearable technologie is diabetes. Given the rising rates of the condition, particularly of Type 2 diabetes, it stands to reason that many inventors in the field of medical technologies would be eager to combat its effects.
Artificial organs might sound like science fiction to many, but they’re fast becoming a reality. In 2017 Medtronic released their Artificial Pancreas, which automatically administers insulin to its wearer throughout the day. The device was approved by the FDA in 2016, and has already hit the market.
While it remains the only automatic insulin-pump with FDA approval, and the only artificial organ to be currently available, it presents an interesting trend towards wearable tech as a replacement for or supplement to the body’s organs.
3D printing is already being implemented in attempts to produce other artificial organs, which could be implanted within the body. If successful, these artificial organs could save countless lives and remove the need for people to wait on donor lists.
Though many of these technologies are still in their infancy, they can all give us some indication of what’s in store when it comes to healthcare in the not-so-distant future. Healthcare innovations have already allowed us to extend our lifespans beyond those of previous generations, and the improvement of our quality of life through medical technology is only set to continue. While it’s impossible to predict with any level of certainty which technologies will be adopted by hospitals and medical practitioners, these upcoming innovations are a positive sign of things to come. We could now be closer to a world free from cancer and other diseases than we’ve ever been, and the devices being worked upon today could very well end up saving our lives in years to come.
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