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Posts from the ‘Future’ Category

Reinventing The Medical Curriculum

Medical curriculum worldwide cannot meet the needs of today’s e-patients and technologies any more, therefore there is time for a substantial change. Good examples are sporadic but at least exist. At Monash University, they developed a kit of 3D-printed anatomical body parts to revolutionize medical education and training. I studied anatomy when I was a medical student from books with tiny font sizes and old atlases. Here is how it can be a different experience.

The 3D Printed Anatomy Series kit, to go on sale later this year, could have particular impact in developing countries where cadavers aren’t readily available, or are prohibited for cultural or religious reasons. After scanning real anatomical specimens with either a CT or surface laser scanner, the body parts are 3D printed either in a plaster-like powder or in plastic, resulting in high resolution, accurate color reproductions.

 

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Moreover, in the Netherlands, a 3D bioprinting Masters program was just introduced and now they plan to become a global centre of bioprinting. This is how medical schools and institutions worldwide should aim at adopting new technologies. This is what the main organizer said:

“There will be 120 researchers completely dedicated to regenerative medicine and biofabrication. Our main work within the bioprinting facility in the early stages is on cartilage and underlying bones. For this type of biological structures, bioprinting technologies are mature and the development of bioinks is taking off exponentially. Our goal is to create a hub of knowledge focused on Utrecht while reaching out to the international scientific community.”

If we don’t change curriculum worldwide, it will be late to prepare today’s students for tomorrow’s world.

 

 

The Dangers of the Future

In my new book, The Guide to the Future of Medicine coming out this August, I’ll feature plenty of analyses of the potential dangers we will all have to face due to new technologies. There will be new diseases because of the excessive use of virtual reality applications and it will be a real challenge to persuade people not to live an entirely virtual life.

A new article on Techcrunch, Immersive Infections, features some of these threats with a focus on augmented and virtual reality. It’s worth running over the examples it comes up with in order to prepare for the threats of the next few years.

One of the key components of Augmented Reality (AR) tech is its ability to facilitate interaction with the real world in new ways. This means that in order to provide digital content overlayed on the real world, these devices require the use of cameras.

A camera attached to an AR device that is attached to you can be a very dangerous thing. Consider if you will, malware that can use said camera to take pictures during a user’s most private times. These instances are never meant to be seen by the public, but by using the connections to social media these devices will no doubt have available, a cyber criminal can post these pictures onto the user’s social media whenever they want. Of course the most likely scenario would be if the user refused to pay a ransom.

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The Future of Cardiology: Check This Slideshow

Christian Assad Kottner, MD who I met at Futuremed last year now gave a talk at Singularity University’s Exponential Cardiology GSP14 track about the future of cardiology. The basic issues behind heart diseases, today’s interventions and the possibilities of the future from imaging to 3D bioprinting are presented in details in this slideshow.

From Doctor to Futurist: Step #8 My Own Methods

After fulfilling my childhood dream of becoming a doctor and a geneticist, I decided to make a brave change in my academic career and tried to merge my two selves: the doctor and the geek. As there was no profession like that, I created one. This is how I started discovering the steps needed to become a medical futurist. There is no clear path or course for that, therefore I try to reveal more and more pieces of information about this exciting journey in a series of blog entries.

The last years of this journey culminated in the book I’ll release in about 4-5 weeks. The Guide to the Future of Medicine features all the trends, technologies and concepts we will all have to face soon in medicine and healthcare. During the time I was writing the book, my method of gathering information and expert opinions worldwide had to significantly improve.

Besides trying all the traditional methods futurists usually use such as scenario planning, I came to the conclusion that networked foresight is the format I’m most familiar with. As I have been crowdsourcing medical information, sometimes even diagnoses, through my social media channels for years, I turned to this expert network to get insights nobody else could get.

It led to identifying around 100 experts from genomics to surgical robotics and doing about 70 interviews; moreover I used these online networks dedicated to determining the future of medicine to gather additional information and details to make the book as comprehensive and fact-filled as possible.

When it comes out, hopefully, you will understand why I chose and customized this method to get the best potential results and will realize, just as I did, how hard and exciting it is to try to predict the future.

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Steps taken so far:

Google And Novartis Tracking Diabetes With Smart Contact Lenses

A few months ago I discussed the future features of smart contact lenses. Now using these to augment vision or track health parameters is not only a good idea any more, as Google launched a partnership with the pharmaceutical company Novartis to develop smart contact lenses that can track diabetes by measuring blood glucose levels in tears and fix farsightedness as well.

As part of the agreement, Google[x] and Novartis’ eye care division Alcon will create smart lenses that feature “non-invasive sensors, microchips and other miniaturized electronics” and focus on two main areas. The first will provide a way for diabetic patients to keep on top of their glucose levels by measuring the sugar levels in their tear fluid, feeding the data back to a smartphone or tablet. The second solution aims to help restore the eye’s natural focus on near objects, restoring clear vision to those who are only farsighted (presbyopia).

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Computer or Human Caregiver?

There has been a long debate whether people would want to get the right diagnosis and the best treatment from human caregivers or algorithms/programs providing the same quality. Every round table or discussion group I have ever been the member of concluded that people need people in interaction and communication, especially when they are vulnerable. However, there is nothing to make us believe there won’t be an algorithm that can diagnose a disease better than a human doctor.

To make this issue even more complicated, new research found patients are more likely to respond honestly to personal questions when talking to a virtual human.

“The power of VH (virtual human) interviewers to elicit more honest responding comes from the sense that no one is observing or judging,” note the researchers, led by Gale Lucas of the University of Southern California’s Institute for Creative Technologies. People have a strong tendency to want to look good in front of others, including doctors; this problematic tendency can be short-circuited using this high-tech tool.

If you think this is something we don’t have to deal with yet, try to convince yourself that the chatbot you are talking with is not a human. Coming up with the right questions to prove that is a good exercise before the era of artifical intelligence. Here are some examples, but not all of these links work all the time.

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How Does a Brain-Controlled Exoskeleton Work?

Have you seen the most important 5 seconds of the recent opening ceremony of the Football World Cup? A person standing in an exoskeleton controlled the machine with his thoughts and made the first kick of the game. Isn’t is amazing? It should have received a much larger attention.

Popular Science summarized in a report and a video how it actually worked and what happened in the backstage. Here are some interesting details:

The sensors placed on Juliano Pinto record angle, position, pressure, and temperature, that is then fed back to the subject through vibrations placed on their torso. These vibrations create an illusion in the brain itself that the subject is responsible for limb movement. In a sense, the exoskeleton is incorporated as an extension of the person’s body.

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Finger Device Reads to the Blind in Real Time

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) came up with a fantastic device that can read written words out loud for people with impaired vision. Not surprisingly, the device was printed out with a 3D printer and has to be worn on the index finger.

A synthesized voice reads words aloud, quickly translating books, restaurant menus and other needed materials for daily living, especially away from home or office.

Reading is as easy as pointing the finger at text. Special software tracks the finger movement, identifies words and processes the information. The device has vibration motors that alert readers when they stray from the script, said Roy Shilkrot, who is developing the device at the MIT Media Lab.

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A few more years with such developments, and having a health issue will not be a disadvantage any more.

3D Printing Vascular Networks

The technique of 3D printing clearly went mainstream this year. 2014 was the turning point. After successfully printing out in 3D working liver tissues, heart valves, prostheses, medical equipment and many more, it is ready to revolutionize almost every aspect of medicine.

As printing out biomaterials is possible and actually faster than growing cells in laboratories, we might not be far from printing out living organs eradicating organ donor waiting lists forever.

In the latest developments, scientists from the Universities of Sydney, Harvard, Stanford and MIT made a groundbreaking announcement that they have worked out a technique making such vascularisation possible within the 3D bioprinting process. It means now it became possible to create vascular networks within printed biomaterials, then organs as well. Here is a summary of the method:

To achieve this, the researchers used an extremely advanced bioprinter to fabricate tiny fibers, all interconnected, which would represent the complex vascular structure of an organ. They coated the fibers with human organs-3endothelial cells, and then covered it with a protein based material, rich in cells. The cell infused material was then hardened with the application of light. Once hardened the researchers carefully removed the coated fibers, leaving behind an intricate network of tiny spaces throughout the hardened cell material. The human endothelial cells were left behind, along the tiny spaces created by the fibers, which after a week self organized into stable capillaries.

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FDA Clears Motorized Exoskeleton

I’ve been in touch with the developers of Ekso Bionics, a motorized exoskeleton that helps paralyzed people learn to walk again, therefore I’m always happy to see new developments in this area. Now, an exoskeleton designed by another company, ReWalk Robotics, received FDA approval which is amazing news for paralyzed people as well. We are truly not far now from giving every paralyzed people a chance to walk again.

A motorized exoskeleton designed to help some of the 200,000 people in the U.S. with lower body paralysis has won clearance from the FDA to market the device in the U.S., according to a company and FDA statement. ReWalk Robotics’ device is designed to help people with spinal cord injuries stand upright and walk.

ReWalk uses a fitted, metal brace that supports the legs and part of the upper body. Motors provide movement at the hips, knees, and ankles. There’s also a tilt sensor and a backpack that contains the computer and power supply. The idea is that by getting people out of their wheelchairs, users can lead healthier lives. Some of the risk factors associated with paralysis over timeincludes hypertension, blood clots and respiratory problems.

It can be used for personal and clinical rehabilitation purposes. Science fiction (Avatar, Ironman, etc.) is getting real soon!

 

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