A century ago, physicians treated polio patients using the iron lung—a large, expensive, and extremely cumbersome machine that helped polio patients breathe. Now, polio and a number of other debilitating diseases have been largely eradicated all over the world, thanks to the giant leaps and bounds that humanity has made in the field of health care technology.
Sure, there are still no widespread cures for cancer, AIDS, and Ebola, but at least people no longer need to drink alcohol to numb the pain of surgery or use toxic mercury to treat syphilis. Health care has evolved in terms of offering better treatments as scientists, researchers, and bio technologists tirelessly work to provide better ways of treating various ailments.
In fact, there are several health care products now that seem to be the stuff of science fiction. Here are the following mind-boggling health care inventions of the 21st century:
3D-Printed Dental Crowns
3D printing is all the hype these days. It can create car parts, fashion accessories, and even artificial organs out of a functional 3D printer and a digital image. So if it has the ability to print lung splints and bones, why can’t it be used to print dental crowns?
A company called Sirona, which uses computer-aided design and manufacturing, makes this possible through its Cerec 3D printing system specially made for dental offices. Instead of patients waiting for two weeks to get a new dental crown, dentists only have to scan the misshapen teeth using a small camera, send the digitized image to a 3D printer, and wait for the new crown to be printed using a block of porcelain in 15 minutes.
Talk about convenience.
Drug Sensor App System
Whatever people’s needs are, there’s an app for that—and that includes digital medicines that promote adherence to a person’s medication regimen.
Abilify, an antipsychotic drug used to treat a variety of mental illnesses like schizophrenia, depression, and bipolar disorder, now comes with a tiny chip that can be detected through a Band-Aid-like sensor worn on the body of the patient. This sensor knows when the pill is swallowed, and if patients are not keeping up with their meds, then the system alerts the doctors through a connected app.
This can be extremely helpful for patients with serious mental illnesses who just can’t comply with their meds regimen. It’s a bit weird, but it just might get the job done.
Speaking of apps, here’s another one that can detect traumatic brain injury.
General Electric and the National Football League (NFL) funded research firm BrainScope $500,000 to develop Ahead 200, an EEG app that aims to instantly detect concussions in athletes so that they can be treated swiftly. After all, a study predicted that more than 25 percent of NFL players are at risk of brain problems later on in life because of traumatic brain injury.
Such a revolutionary app can also be beneficial to ordinary people. The FDA has already approved of Ahead 200 as a diagnostic tool, so hopefully it soon becomes available to the general public.
Glucose-Monitoring Bandage-Sized Sensors
Daily needle pricks and insulin shots are the banes of diabetics all over the world. That is why Google and medical device firm DexCom are teaming up to create a bandage-sized sensor that could help diabetics monitor their blood sugar levels in real time.
The sensor, which can monitor both type 1 and type 2 diabetes, aims to become a disposable and cheaper alternative to finger sticks someday. It is also connected to the cloud, so data can easily be uploaded and analyzed by Google’s software.
Aside from this, Google’s Life Sciences division is also working with Novartis to create smart contact lenses to improve vision and monitor blood sugar levels. How cool is that?
Math that Stops the Spread of Ebola
Who could have thought that math can defeat Ebola?
The Virginia Bioinformatics Institute created real-time epidemic modeling through the Network Dynamics and Simulation Science Laboratory, which determined the evolution of the deadly Ebola virus. The team was able to create a forecast track for the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, predicting worst case scenarios in order to aid in decision-making and help limit the spread of the virus.
The predictions during the 2014 Ebola outbreak went way overboard, but it just might spell the beginning of agent-based models that can help identify how pathogens really spread within a population.
Cancer-Fighting Magnetic Microbots
There is still a lot of speculation about cancer treatments within the biotechnology industry, but here’s a promising one: a group of engineering graduate students from École Polytechnique de Montréal designed magnetic drug carriers that can be steered inside an artery using an MRI machine. These magnetic microbots can reach deep tumors like cancer cells, thus helping to get rid of the disease once and for all.
Granted that the new technology has only been tested on animals like rats and pigs, robotics still poses a huge potential in the field of biotech. Who knows? Maybe a century from now, cancer will be a thing of the past, just like polio.