The most revolutionary medical advances are ones that tackle a long-standing problem and offer a new solution that saves lives. Each incremental step toward better health outcomes and longer, healthier lives for humans is an important one. But some advances blow the lid off the problem and make a huge leap toward the idyllic future we desire.
Let’s look at some recent medical achievements that are already making a big difference in the world.
Alternative Pain Relief Therapy
Overdose deaths due to opioid medications have skyrocketed in recent years, and the problem is big enough that it has been declared a public health emergency. Most people who become addicted to opioids are initially prescribed the medication by their doctors to deal with pain due to surgery, injury, an ongoing condition.
These folks don’t set out to be drug addicts, but opiate medications are so addictive that many succumb. And even more problematic, increasing doses of opiates become necessary over time in order for patients to experience relief. For some people, opiates actually don’t work very well at all, leading them to take too many.
The way that an individual body responds to opiates is actually determined by its genes, and that’s what a new technology called pharmacogenomic testing takes into account. This innovative method of pain management looks at a patient’s genetic makeup and metabolism to custom tailor a medication regimen (with or without opioids) that has the best chance of both relieving pain and preventing addiction.
Advances in Cancer Treatment
Cancer is a terrible disease that continues to kill upwards of 10 million people every year. It’s a health crisis with hundreds of questions that remain to be solved. We understand a little bit about the lifestyle, environmental, and genetic factors that contribute, but conventional treatment is brutal and its success rate varies considerably.
There may be hope on the horizon with recent advances in cancer treatment. Immunotherapy is a type of treatment that uses a patient’s own immune system to fight their cancer. While it has been around for some time, researchers are now using it to profile specific tumors and engineer T-cells (white blood cells that play a key role in immune function) to fight those tumors.
Further out on the horizon is the use of nanorobotics. A recent study worked with tiny “robots” engineered with the ability to recognize cancer cells and deploy medication directly into them. The nanorobots shrunk tumors when injected into the bloodstream of mice, but no human trials have been done.
Customized Medical Devices
In recent years 3D printers have become very popular and some models are even accessible to regular consumers. That has led to a lot of innovation, including in the medical field. Researchers have discovered that medical devices custom designed and printed with 3D printers yield far better patient outcomes.
Because custom medical devices are designed with exact patient-specific dimensions, they are better accepted by the body and reduce both complications and pain for the patient. This technology is often used for external prosthetics, stents to reverse narrowing of airways, cranial implants, and devices that correct bone or muscle deformities.
Custom designed medical devices have also been used in many complex heart surgeries and even in a groundbreaking total face transplant! The possibilities for use of this technology are basically endless.
Advances in Robotic Surgery
Surgery is an incredible tool that has averted millions of human tragedies, but it also takes a considerable toll on the body. Over the years, surgical techniques have been developed that make many surgeries less invasive and easier to recover from.
Among the tools used by top surgeons today are robots. Use of robotic surgical tools allows for extreme precision and a steadier hand than could be achieved by any human. As a result, patients are recovering faster than ever and experiencing considerably less pain.
Rest assured that robotics in surgery are controlled by human surgeons who can respond nimbly to their patient’s condition. With the help of trained surgeons, new robotic surgical tools can place sutures, create 3D models of the interior of a body, and perform complex procedures through the tiniest of incisions.
Recent advances in medical technology point to a world with happier, healthier humans. We may one day live free of cancer, suffer less pain, prevent addiction, and tailor most treatments to the individual patient. But even as new advancements appear, so do new challenges. Taking time to learn about current developments in medical technology can only help assure us that these new challenges will, in time, be met as well.