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Sweeping tech breakthroughs in medicine, Part II

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? (Parts I and II). 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…

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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.

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