It is one thing to say that technology has changed our lives – although whether it is for the better is a philosophical debate for another day. However, the way tech is changing the healthcare and medical sector means that it is no exaggeration to say that the technical innovations of recent years could well save your life or fundamentally affect its quality. Here are five examples of how.
The rise of the nanobots
In the 1966 film Fantastic Voyage,a team of scientists are shrunk to microscopic size and enter into the bloodstream of a scientist to perform life-saving brain surgery. Who could have guessed that fifty years later, nanotechnology would allow tiny robots to work along similar lines. They can keep tissues oxygenated following a heart attack, actively target cancer and remove platelets. OK, so they can’t do brain surgery, at least not yet, but in future, self- assembling modules could certainly perform more sophisticated medical procedures from inside the body.
Microscopic imaging technology to understand strokes
Stroke is one of the leading causes of death worldwide, claiming 140,000 victims per year in the US alone. Cutting edge microscopic imaging technology from bitplane.com has been used alongside lightsheet microscopy and optical clearing to make comprehensive 3D visual representations of the highly complex vascular architecture found in the brains of mice that have had strokes. This has provided valuable insights into the level of damage caused to blood vessels by strokes, leading to a better understanding of how and why strokes cut off blood supply to areas of the brain.
It is not all high-tech machinery and nanotechnology. The broader area of big data analytics has also played a part in revolutionising medicine. Traditionally, doctors make their diagnoses on the basis of experience and research of how similar symptoms have played out in past events. Today, an artificial intelligence algorithm can consult 200 million pages of medical research and statistics per second, and will arrive at a diagnosis faster and with better accuracy than even the most experienced doctor could ever do.
3D imaging is incredible enough in its applications, but 3D printing is really science fiction come to life. Parallels have been drawn with the famous replicators in Star Trek, and while creating a cup of Earl Grey from its constituent elements might still be a long way off, the fact that 3D printers have already been used to successfully manufacture artificial ovaries in mice gives a hint of just how far the technology could take us.
There are plenty of examples and feel good stories out there of how wearable fitness technology like the Fitbit has saved people’s lives, but this is only the beginning. The latest generation Scanadu monitors basic health parameters including blood pressure, temperature and so on, while other new technologies are being introduced that detect everything from allergens to early stages of diseases. These will provide constant data for you or your doctor, that can be accessed any time.