Technological progression is most evident and valuable when it’s saving lives. Advances in medical technology, from prosthetic limbs to glass syringes, have all done so with the intention of doing just this. Groundbreaking medical technologies are rare, but there are some recent innovations that are already being deployed. Here are the five new medical technologies that may still seem like science fiction, but are used today to save lives.
1. 3D Printed Heart Surgery
China seems to have perfected 3D printing technology for internal organs such as the heart. Last year, doctors and surgeons at the People’s Hospital of Jilin completed the risky procedure on a nine-month old child. A fatal heart defect had meant the chances of death before the child turned one was as high as 80%. The doctors used a 3D scanner to print out an exact replica of the child’s heart. This helped them identify the defects and treat the child successfully, saving his life.
2. Artificial Pancreas
There’s no cure for diabetes and most people who suffer from it live with it forever. Most patients with Type II diabetes have to constantly monitor their blood sugar levels to avoid severe complications. Technology in this field has advanced, but it is still far from perfect; for example, monitors and alarms may not be able to wake a patient up and alert them in time. This is why Dana Lewis and her engineer boyfriend created an artificial pancreas at home using a Raspberry Pi. Their rudimentary device is now undergoing improvements and could help millions of people across the world.
3. Robotic Exoskeleton
Ekso Bionics helped a man paralyzed from the chest down marry his girlfriend without using a wheelchair. The robotic exoskeleton they developed for him is capable of holding an adult upright and supporting basic movements within a limited space.
4. Improved Genetic Sequencing
Geneticist Stephen Kingsmore and his team perfected rapid genetic sequencing to help a young boy suffering from liver failure. Their method quickly identified mutations in the genome so that they could treat it effectively. With the diagnoses taking only three days, the doctors were able to administer the right medicines to boost the child’s immune response.
5. Skin Cell Gun
A skin 3D printer or skin cell gun delivers a mixture of fibrinogen, collagen, and thrombin to parts of the body that have suffered severe burns. This eliminates the need for skin grafts and quickens the healing process for burn victims.
These five medical innovations may seem unbelievable but there is no doubt that each of them has huge implications for medicine. Improvements and further research could help these clever technologies see widespread adoption soon.