Rapidly evolving medical technology means that doctors and scientists have even more tools at their disposal to combat disease and long-term degenerative conditions. From advances in 3D printing to gene therapy the future of medicine is looking bright.
Helping the heart
In 1967 when Dr Christian Barnard carried out the world’s first heart transplant, the process was seen as revolutionary. Medicine has advanced since that time. Developments in 3D printing mean that the doctors of the 21st century can use 3D imaging techniques to actually produce an anatomically correct model of the heart to help coronary diagnosis and operation planning. Of course, hospitals still use conventional equipment, including castors for hospital beds, and trained medical staff are at the forefront of patient care, but advances in medical technology mean that patient treatment is progressing at a staggering pace.
A recent article in the authoritative magazine New Scientist described how scientists have found a way of replacing teeth through the use of 3D technology. Although this technology is still in its trial stage, the researchers believe that the 3D teeth will not only act as tooth replacements but when constructed from antimicrobial plastic will keep the whole mouth free from corrosive bacteria.
The secrets of the brain
Thanks to developments in MRI and CT scans, scientists already have the capacity to look inside the brain, and research into neurosurgery mean that a brain tumour won’t always signify a death sentence. Science has now gone a step further and found a way to replicate the brain using digital technology. Thanks to work on the Blue Brain project and carried out at the Lausanne Institute of Technology, a minute portion of a rat’s brain has been successfully reproduced revealing 37 million synapses and 31 thousand neurons. The research aims to answer the age-old question of how the brain works. This important work will shed light on mental health problems and a whole range of other conditions.
Looking to the future
The Association of British Healthcare Industries published a report that stated that the UK’s medical technology industry is currently worth £17 billion and employs 76,000 people. Therefore, it’s not surprising that there are daily reports of successful drug trials and other scientific advances. It’s not simply research into new drug therapies that’s progressing. Another area of technological growth is robotics. According to the BBC work is progressing to develop an adjustable and flexible robotic arm that’ll be able to carry out keyhole surgery in the future. The device mimics the fluid actions of an octopus’s tentacle, and will be able to carry out complex as well as routine surgery. Keyhole operations cut down the risk of infection, as they are less invasive than conventional surgical techniques.
With so many extraordinary projects in development as a result of technological advances there may come a time when humankind can eradicate disease, or at least treat many medical conditions for which there isn’t a cure at present. With gene therapy, 3D printing and robotics and other innovations engaged in the fight against disease, the future of medical technology knows no bounds.