Bionic eyes that are as good as (or better than) human eyes
For the 40 to 45 million people around the globe who are blind, bionic eyes could potentially restore sight. Bionic eyes are linked to the visual cortex, the part of the brain that takes in visual information from our eyes and creates the images that we recognize as sight. This happens so quickly that we are not even aware of it. Technology is not quite advanced enough to perfectly reproduce the seamless communication between the eye and brain but it might in the near future. Eye implants that allow patients to visualize shapes and colors and a brain microchip that creates artificial vision using a small camera already exist.
The need for donated blood and organs typically greatly exceeds availability, forcing patients to wait on long waiting lists, often as their health is deteriorating. Even after organ transplants are performed, there is a significant risk of the body rejecting the new organ, requiring recipients to spend the rest of their lives on drugs to keep their immune systems from attacking the donor organ. If organs, tissue, and blood that perfectly are matched to patients could be grown in a lab from the patient’s own cells, transplants could happen faster and more efficiently with less risk of organ rejection.
When you go to the new doctor or to the emergency room, healthcare providers typically have to rely on you to remember what medications you’re taking and when you had your appendix out. But if you could carry a digital record of your medical history with you wherever you go, doctors would be able to treat you with complete confidence and with a much lower risk of dangerous drug interactions or allergic reactions. Wearable health devices are increasingly popular but the ability to sync that technology with health databases on a national or even global scale would be game-changing.
While functional bones printed in a lab may sound like science fiction, a group of researchers has developed a cutting-edge approach to 3D-print synthetic bones. The mimic bones are made of ceramic-based ink mixed with living cells and the compound calcium phosphate, which is frequently used to help regenerate bone. Because these synthetic bones can be printed at room temperature, the researchers who developed them believe that they can safely be constructed inside the body. The technique has shown promise in the lab but has not yet been tested in humans.
3D printing technology is likely to play a critical role in the future of regenerative medicine, a field focused on replacing tissues that have been damaged by disease or injury. The treatment of burns and other scar tissue is particularly well suited to the technology as they are notoriously difficult to repair. Several research teams are working to develop a 3D-printing tool that can deposit layers of healthy, living skin, including some with blood vessels already incorporated, to speed up the healing of burns and wounds. So far none of the tools have made it to a clinical setting, but the outlook is bright.
Brain implants to map and treat neurological disorders
Our brains are incredible machines capable of extraordinary actions. But sometimes the brain doesn’t work exactly as it should. Nerves that should fire don’t or fire at the wrong time. Deep brain stimulation, which uses electrodes to direct electrical signals to a specific part of the brain in the brain, is used to treat some neurological disorders, including Parkinson’s disease and epilepsy. Newer therapies for depression, anxiety, and addiction would use these electrodes to create a map of electrical activity in the brain that is specific to each patient, allowing researchers to pinpoint what brain activity corresponds with symptoms and target that activity for the treatment.
For many people, allergies are a mild inconvenience but for people with anaphylaxis, they can be deadly. Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction most often triggered by foods like nuts and shellfish, insect stings, and medicines like penicillin. Vaccines and immunotherapy that can block that extreme immune response would save many lives. In one recent study of children with peanut allergies, targeted immunotherapy, combined with a probiotic, all but eliminated allergic reactions in three-quarters of the study’s participants. Another study used nanoparticles to send egg proteins to a population of liver cells that block immune response, preventing an allergic reaction from ever occurring. These studies are small but the results indicate similar treatments may be effective at blocking severe allergies.
How do you uncover the mysteries of your individual health, your risk factors for certain diseases, or how you may respond to specific treatments? The answer may very well be written into your genetic code. Scientists have worked for decades to unravel everything that our DNA has to tell us and determine how it can be used to improve treatments. Drugs that are designed to perfectly match patients’ unique genetic profiles will enable a level of precision in treatments that has never been possible before. These genetically matched drugs could mean yield more effective therapies with far fewer side effects.
CRISPR gene editing allows researchers to change DNA, including repairing mistakes. Although it’s a relatively new technology, it has already had a substantial impact on medicine and earned Nobel Prize in Chemistry its inventors. The technology has been tested as a treatment for rare blood disorders, cancers, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s disease, with many more on the horizon. But CRISPR’s potential isn’t limited to its ability to treat diseases; it may also be able to prevent them from ever developing. It may also be used to prevent inherited diseases as well as certain cancers, neurodegenerative diseases, or immune disorders that are caused to single gene mutation.
From video games and augmented reality apps to career training and socializing, virtual reality has caught on in a big way. Unsurprisingly, the tech has also made an impact in the healthcare field with exciting tools like virtual reality surgical studios that let surgeons visualize every aspect of a procedure before the patient is even in front of them. One of the next frontiers of virtual reality is likely to be the diagnosis and treatment of mental illnesses. Studies are already underway that explore virtual reality as a tool to detect post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD), attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and anxiety.
Imagine getting a personalized, artificial-intelligence-driven prediction of diseases that you are most at risk of developing. You could be empowered to make lifestyle changes or begin preventative care to decrease your risks.Augmented artificial intelligence models are a type of machine learning designed to pull data from multiple sources to assist in humans making more accurate decisions. A model that uses input from a dozen electrocardiograms (ECGs) â tests that measure electrical activity in the heartâ to predict heart issues and an artificial neural network (a simplified model of the human brain) that can accurately predict chronic illnesses are two recent examples of ambitious uses of machine learning to determine disease risk.
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