How new technology is changing our medical fields
Note: words formatted in bold are ones which can be found in the glossary.
The human race has come a long way in terms of technological advancements. From the invention of the wheel to being able to send rockets into space, we as a race have come so far but we have only scratched the surface when it comes to progress. Regardless, technology is everywhere: from the cars we drive to the devices we own, technology has really become a staple in our lives. It comes as no surprise then that technology is also massive in the medical field. Indeed a large number of digital innovations are reshaping modern day healthcare-and it’s only improving as we speak. Numerous innovations and new solutions are already on the market and they have all improved healthcare immensely over the years. The fact is that technological developments in healthcare have saved countless patients and are continuously improving our quality of life. Not only that, but technology in the medical field has had a massive impact on nearly all processes and practices of healthcare professionals.
Let’s take for instance visual prosthesis – building a bionic eye has many challenges, but researchers may have just solved one of them. In 2015 ,using 3D technology, scientists printed an array of light receptors on a glass eye-shaped object. The silver particles they used as ink stayed put, despite the curved surface and the photodiodes converted light into electricity with 25% efficiency. The next step here is to include more light receptors and a softer surface to make the implant more comfortable. This gives hope to those who have full or partial blindness, which was once known to be ‘incurable’.
Turning our attention to health tracking devices, after the initial release of Fitbit’s wrist activity tracker, health tracking devices have become increasingly more universal. Most products are used to measure and store fitness data. At some point in the future, we can expect these sensing technologies to be central to disease prevention, diagnosis and therapy. There’s potential in these becoming bendable, digital tattoos and stick-on sensors which can take and measure various different types of medical tests and transmit results seamlessly via bluetooth. This could increase the survival rate of patients who suffer life-threatening diseases: using the tracking of an electrocardiogram to detect that a patient has a heart attack, for instance, is a much more efficient way than having a commuter calling and informing an ambulance.
Current day medics still need to perform many step procedures and blood tests to identify a disease or illness. With the widening array of AI analytics, the sector will almost certainly boost diagnosticians’ accuracy and speed, improving disease detection at early stages and thus delivering successful treatment or cure to a patient. Thanks to artificial intelligence and machine learning, diagnostic tools can be trained to read tissue samples and radiologic scans. Google researchers fed more than a quarter-million patients’ retinal scans into algorithms that recognize patterns—and the technology developed to spot which patterns predict a patient has high blood pressure or is at increased risk for heart attack or stroke.
We then have the inevitable suffering of cancer patients, which still has not yet a cure that is guaranteed to work. CRISPR may be our answer. CRISPR has revolutionised the field of gene editing by making it much simpler and quicker to modify DNA sequences with high accuracy. This project is currently being used in China to remove a gene from immune T cells that encodes a protein called PD-1, which tumor cells can use to evade an immune attack. As days pass by, there may be a day where a scientist finds the unique DNA alteration that deactivates the formation of PD-1 so powerfully that cancer can be cured even at its last stages. These projects are evidence of walking a step closer to stopping the war cancer poses on us.
But let’s see how biological molecules can actually help technology to advance. Our world is now facing a data storage problem: in this century of rapid progression, we’ve created more technological data in the past 2 years than we have since the world began. And that torrent of information may soon outstrip the ability of databases, digital networking and hard drives to capture it. Now, researchers report that they’ve come up with a new way to encode digital data in DNA to create the highest-density data storage scheme ever invented. Capable of storing 215 petabytes (215 million gigabytes) in a single gram of DNA, the system could store every bit of information ever recorded by humans in a container about the size and weight of a few vehicles. “DNA won’t degrade over time like cassette tapes and CDs, and it won’t become obsolete,” says Yaniv Erlich , a computer scientist at Columbia University. The approach worked so well that the ‘new files contained no programming or functioning errors’, they report. What’s more, Erlich says, they were able to encode 1.6 bits of data per nucleotide, 60% better than any group had done before and 85% of the theoretical limit.
With all that in mind an important thing to consider is that it hasn’t been long since digital technology was first ever born. After all, Google is only 21 years old. But if we watch how technology has progressed, especially in the last few decades, we can observe a rapid change never seen before, since the world began. Our century has a lot of potential, but we won’t be able to discover more precise diagnosis equipment or reliable cures to the so-called ‘incurable’ diseases if we don’t participate in it. Medical research fields are lacking individuals -without members, there will soon be a time of regret for not discovering treatment when the opportunity was there. It is therefore vital that more people show their interest in this field and participate in it, to improve the health and lifestyle of individuals. And here at breakthrough science we want to make it our personal mission to shed light on all these breakthrough discoveries and garner interest hoping that one day, these scientific discoveries can make the world a better place.
|Visual prosthesis/ bionic eye:||Experimental visual device intended to restore functional vision in those suffering from partial or total blindness|
|Electrocardiogram:||A record or display of a person’s heartbeat|
|AI Analytics:||AI analytics is the product of automating data analysis—a traditionally time-consuming and people-intensive task—using the power of today’s artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies.|
|CRISPR:||A genetic engineering tool that uses a sequence of DNA (containing short repetitions of base sequence) and its associated protein to edit the base pairs of a gene.|
|Nucleotide:||A compound consisting of a nucleoside linked to a phosphate group. Nucleotides form the basic structural unit of nucleic acids such as DNA.|