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Mankind’s already thinking about colonizing space, yet we still haven’t found the cure for the common cold. Alt...
Mankind’s already thinking about colonizing space, yet we still haven’t found the cure for the common cold. Although we’re not living in a Star Trek-like space age, diligent doctors and scientists have been hard at work to make technology benefit our health. Here are seven of the largest medical breakthroughs in recent years.
Last December, a team of French doctors successfully transplanted an artificial heart into a patient for the first time. So yes, the guy’s a robot. The heart is completely man-made, manufactured from soft biomaterials and powered by a lithium battery. An array of sensors helps it mimic each detail of an actual human heart, and although the machine is still in its testing phase, results are very promising.
Bionic limbs are nothing new (remember the Chinese guy who built his own?), but things are looking different now that you can download and print your own robot arm right at home, for just $400. Dubbed the Handie, this handy helper may not be as capable as its older robotic brethren, but what it lacks in features, it makes up for in flexibility and price.
The Argus II is an eye prosthetic that bypasses damaged photoreceptors and feeds a video directly to the retina. In short, it enables blind people to see. The entire system includes an eye implant surgically embedded in the damaged eye, specially designed camera glasses and a video processing unit. Medicare patients in the US can apply for the device, and aside from some rocky clinical trials, it looks like the Argus is producing some eye-opening results.
A very simple question: If cancer cells are an undesired presence, why don’t white blood cells kill them?
The answer? Cancer cells are enveloped in a protective shield, and scientists have invented a drug that breaks down the bad cells’ defences. Purported to work against all types of cancer, the method riles up the immune system to aggressively attack the malignant cells, and doctors have called the breakthrough “amazing,” a “watershed moment” and a “game changer.”
Diabetics often have a shared thought in mind: their blood sugar level. A biomedical engineer (and father of a diabetic boy) invented a bionic pancreas as a replacement for ineffective insulin pumps. The robo-organ measures insulin levels every five minutes and uses an iOS app to track and determine the appropriate amount of insulin. Pretty sweet news for diabetic sufferers everywhere.
Dread going to the dentist? Fear the sound of the drill more than anything in the world? All that may soon be history, as British scientists have invented a method to fix cavities with no drilling whatsoever. It works by using a small electrical current to push minerals into the affected area, which then repairs itself. Hold out just a bit longer - experts say the procedure will be available within three years.
Activity trackers have slowly started to creep up on the market, and despite scepticism, doctors have been using them to track their patients’ diets and general health. A new device, called the AIRO, uses a novel method to track your nutrient intake by shining LED lights to detect metabolites while you eat. Although inconclusive and expensive, it’s still a good starting point for more refined nutrient-tracking technology in the future.