As a science fiction fanatic, it’s exciting to see sci-fi in real life. Technologies that we have only seen in movies before are now transforming our everyday lives. We’re connected 24/7, across the globe by smartphones; driverless cars navigate safely in traffic; and houses are printed out. The same is happening in healthcare, even if we don’t yet feel this when we go to the GP’s office. Here are the top 10 stories that made healthcare feel like sci-fi in 2015:
1) 3D Printed Cast
Scott Summit from 3D Systems might have been the first patient ever to have a shower with a 3D printed cast on his arm. It is personalized to his arm, really cheap and easily replaceable. A Spanish startup Exovite is turning it into a product anyone can buy. Their cast also includes electrodes to prevent muscles from atrophying under the cast.
2) Seeing Veins Under the Skin
A new device called VeinVeiwer Vision2 uses near-infrared light to generate real-time imagery of a patient’s veins. Taking blood – without damaging blood vessels or causing excessive pain – won’t just depend on the skill and the experience of phlebotomists.
3) Kidney Tissue Grown in Lab
Lab-grown kidney tissues were successfully transplanted into animals. This is the first step towards making biomaterials transplantable into patients. Steps such as this make me hope for a near-future without organ donor waiting lists.
4) Cheap Prosthetics For Kids
The E-Nable project brings cheap, 3D printed prosthetics to underdeveloped regions. The parts can be replaced easily and the whole prosthetic device can be assembled by anyone. A lot of regional E-Nable projects were launched in 2015.
5) Augmented Reality in Medical Education
Microsoft will release its augmented reality head-mounted device in 2016 but they published the first videos about how it could be used in medical education and the future of medical training. Imagine studying anatomy by literally looking at 3D body parts in front of your eyes. I wish I was a medical student now.
6) Pacemaker Without Surgery
A new wireless pacemaker with a battery life of over two decades can be implanted without surgery and was found safe in a clinical study. It is implanted similarly to stents: through a vein in the leg.
7) Hacking The Pancreas
A cute story about a couple showed the merits of empowered patients and citizen scientists. The husband is an engineer and the wife has diabetes. As diabetic patients face very low or very high blood glucose levels during the night, an alarm system for either extreme would be very useful, but is currently not available. They created one with DIY methods. Their solution gained fame, and might be turned into a product soon.
8) The Digital Contact Lens
A Novartis chief announced that the digital contact lens would come out in 2016. The patent about the technology belongs to Google, but the pharmaceutical company teamed up with them to provide better treatments in diabetes by letting the lens measure blood glucose from tears.
9) Microchip Under The Skin Monitors Vital Signs
A new medical device – in effect a small microchip – can be implanted under the skin and allows for precise, real-time medical monitoring. With this invention, any vital sign or health parameter could be measured and monitored. The patient wouldn’t have to keep anything in mind or actively partake in the process.
10) Smart Bandages Detect Infections
Next generation bandages include microchips that measure basic health parameters and also detect infections in their early phase. This way bed sores could be prevented in time.
Hearing these news made me really excited about the future. I’m sure 2016 will bring even more technologies straight out of science fiction medicine, so keep an eye out!
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