Sweeping breakthroughs in medicine

Perhaps you already have a Fitbit or similar new generation health monitor

What’s the most exciting emerging tech revolution of all?

I believe major technical advances in health care are because of their incredible potential for improving health, quality of life and extending longevity.

Sweeping advances in Health Care delivery

We’re already beginning to benefit from genetic profiling, improved infectious disease mapping and digital implants. Here’s a breakdown of the most important advances–

Cloud-based electronic health records

are one of the major ‘accelerants’ that in the future will help provide immediate access to our health information, from any location via portable devices. Of course, important privacy and connectivity issues will have to be resolved before universal, cloud-based medical information becomes standard.

Implantable and wearable health monitors for tele-diagnosis

will become commonplace with exponential increases in the computing power of tiny, implantable and wearable devices. For those with serious chronic, potentially life-threatening health problems, implanted radio frequency monitors will transmit information directly into cloud-based electronic health histories to help forestall emergencies before they happen. Biomedical sensor innovations have great, still unrealized potential. A single new generation computer chip can now contain multiple accelerometers, gyroscopes, and magnetometers.

A friend of mine who is completing his medical residency routinely uses smartphone medical apps with patients on a daily basis, to obtain a wealth of immediate, practice-based and general medical information. Interestingly, Qualcomm is sponsoring a competition this year (2015) for the best new diagnostic device, one capable of monitoring five key health metrics and diagnosing 16 different health conditions.

An explosion in medical apps 

According to a 2014 report by PricewaterhouseCoopers, “90 percent of physicians anticipate that mobile medical applications will become important for patient health management within the next five years. …Devices that analyze urine, monitor and report vitals, and even diagnose ear infections are presently available or on the horizon.” About 100 such apps have already been approved to date and the FDA expects a record number of mobile medical apps the year.

Distant future developments 

Expect to see the introduction of injectable nanobots able to grow replacement organs derived from our own tissues. Parallel to this development, researchers are now at the initial stage of learning how to reproduce human organs on 3D printers. In addition, sweeping advances in brain-machine interaction hold the promise of restoring the ability to walk for those with spinal cord injuries.

We will have a wealth of tools to manage our own health


Perhaps you already have a Fitbit or similar new generation health monitor. This and similar devices help motivate us throughout the day to maintain vital health regimens (e.g., walking the standard minimum 8K steps a day). They also track weight, sleep habits/patterns, calories burned, etc. Premium versions let us know how we compare to others in our age/gender group for variables tracked.

Opting for advanced genetic profiling 

Expect to see advanced genetic profiling gain much wider acceptance with stronger incentives to participate in disease screening. As an increasing number of genetically based diseases become manageable, we’ll be even more motivated to know about our personal genetic risk factors.

Next, I’ll introduce basic information about robotics, regenerative medicine and other medical tech advances, changes that promise to further blur the line between biology and machine.

Bioprinters will be able to build human organs with planned defects

Unprecedented advances in human implants, prosthetics and bioengineering

In July of last year, I posted two blogs about Artificial Intelligence (AI): “Does Artificial Intelligence Foreshadow Utopia or Dystopia?. On the utopian side of the equation, AI and other breakthroughs are generating an ever-increasing array of implants,  and other bioengineering innovations to help us live healthier, longer lives.

We’ve all been heartened by reports of amputees regaining arm and leg function with miraculous mind-controlled robotic prostheses. Researchers have also developed AI/bioengineered implants to restore hearing, as well as rudimentary retinal implants that hold promise in the long-term of restoring vision for the blind.

Initial efforts have been made to prevent genetically based disease. And we are fast approaching a time when selecting the physical attributes of our offspring will be possible. –As Stephen Hawking recently commented “…humans are entering a stage of self-designed evolution.”

Bioprinting will change everything…

Expect ‘bioprinting’ to transform life as we know it –including the far future possibility of ‘bionic organs’ that could give us super human sensory awareness and resilience/strength beyond our genetic blueprint.

Bioprinting (3D printing of human tissue) will allow much more accurate, faster data retrieval. This will reduce the need for extensive animal and human subject testing.

Bioprinters will be able to build human organs with planned defects, like tumors or blockages, so surgeons can practice multiple times before performing actual surgery.

Eventually, bioprinting organs from the cells of an individual’s body could provide ‘perfect’ complete and partial organ transplant matches, significantly reducing the 120,000 number of people now on the national donor waiting list. One among many promising applications: bioprinting healthy pancreatic tissue to produce insulin for type 1 diabetes.

A sampling of other breakthroughs on the horizon

Artificial Lymph Nodes–Research has begun on creating artificial, customized lymph nodes to boost immunity for specific conditions, e.g., cancer or HIV.

Noninvasive Cancer Test–New, simple to administer saliva-based tests will be able to detect different cancers and other diseases, reducing the need for invasive biopsies.

Electronically Monitored Pressure-Sensitive Contact Lenses will warn Glaucoma patients of dangerous changes in fluid flow/pressure to prevent retinal damage and even dispense drugs to correct such variations.

Nerve Regeneration–Once scar tissue forms along an injured spinal cord forms, new nerve fibers can’t form. But Northwestern University has developed a nanogel that after injection prevents the development of scar tissue that happens. Research continues…

Smart Pills— Proteus Biomedical has engineered sensors (tiny grain-size microchips) that track when medicines are ingested in correlation with heart rate, respiration, etc. This will help to calibrate correct dosages for individuals with great precision. –In the distant future, look for a new generation of highly sophisticated biochemical and genetic tests that will help design/tailor medications, down to the molecular level, for individuals.