We are living a fascinating time as regards to the evolution of modern healthcare. Genetic therapies are poised to cure hitherto incurable diseases, while robotics will provide unheard of levels of surgical precision. But what other areas are benefiting from the breakthroughs that will shape tomorrow’s healthcare? Here are a few of the most interesting lines of research.
There are hearing aids for auditive impairment, but blindness remains one of the biggest technological challenges. A group of researchers from the University of Minnesota has just brought he bionic eye closer to reality, giving new hope to visually impaired patients. In order to achieve it, they have leveraged 3D printing to print curved electronic circuits. These photosensitive semiconductors provide an excellent 25% light to electricity conversion rate. Of course, the researchers still need to go a long way before creating a viable prototype but judging by their previous feats —they already made headlines a few years ago with their “bionic ear”— they should be on the right path.
Smart glucose-measuring contact lens
Pricking a fingertip is a common obligation among diabetics that need to check the insulin levels in their blood. But, thanks to the new technology developed by the National Institute of Science and Technology of Ulsan in Korea, this could be a thing of the past. Their device is a soft and smart contact lens that uses transparent and flexible glucose nanosensors, as well as wireless circuits, to warn users with a LED light in case of hypoglycemia.
Elderly care robots
Mobility issues, as well as cognitive impairment, are some of the challenges faced by an increasingly aged population. Japan is at the forefront of the implementation of robotics for senior care and the latest application of this type of technology can be found in the field of physical exercise. The idea is to use robots as gym teachers for users, by showing them the exercise they need to carry out to stay fit.
No, these are no potatoes but a new generation of electronic devices that can travel all the way down to the bowel and release drugs or analyze tissues. This is enabled by a foldable robot that is sent inside a capsule that is opened once it reaches the work area. Along the same lines, subcutaneous microchips are also in development, aiming to detect potential diseases or a lack of nutrients. Smart patches applied to pregnant women will also allow analyzing their vital parameters.
3D printed prostheses
This application has already been available for some time and has reduced substantially the cost of developing mobility systems to help people suffering from the loss o limbs. The 3D printers can be moved to any place in the world, where a scanned image of the other arm or leg can be sent in order to create a symmetric prosthesis.
Of course, these are just a few of the many possibilities opened by technology. In global terms, there is also a revolution in the making with regards to the gathering and analysis of medical data thanks to artificial intelligence. For instance, considerable progress has been made in the detection of tumors through the analysis of CT scans.
Source: National Geographic