Disruptions Changing Healthcare (And Life) As We Know It
In five years, the world is moving toward an average of 10 devices per household. By 2020, predictions account for 20 billion devices globally. Connectivity is becoming a way of life. The mobile healthcare market, for example, is expected to grow to $60 billion in 2015. Concepts such as “Continuous Healthcare” would use telepresence to change interactions between patients and doctors.
Below are some predictions for disruptions changing healthcare and extending human life by the year 2025 or beyond.
Regrowing Body Parts/3D printing
Ancient stories and poems reference prosthetic limbs. Roman general Marcus Sergius had a right hand fashioned out of iron. The replacement was designed to hold a shield so that he could return to battle. The earliest of all ancient prosthetics is a wooden toe found in the tomb of an Egyptian noble.
Regenerative medicine is the science of assisting the body’s regeneration process. The most well-known example being stem cell therapy. Recently, scientists cultured human liver cells in vitro. Stem cells grown in this form survive for longer periods of time. The greater genetic stability makes the in vitro stem cells better candidates for transplant.
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Spare parts aren’t just being grown in the lab. A team of Brown University researchers are working on large-scale 3D printing human organs. Instead of plastic or metal filament the system would print using organic tissue.
Mind Control Devices
When Bell made his first phone call, he asked his assistant to come see him. Although his colleague was many miles away, Bell’s point was the telephone would bring people closer together. At the University of Washington, Rajesh Rao can send a brain signal across the Internet that move his colleague’s body.
The system employs Electroencephalography (EEG) headwear to record brain signals. The wearers are trained to associate a set of EEG signals to specific tasks. Users repeatedly think about executing a task. The software is trained to recognize the pattern of brain signals. Scientists have even recorded the synaptic transmissions of visual pathways in mice.
Case Western University is working on an advanced prosthetics that restore the sense of touch. Replacement limbs interface with patient’s partial limb. Flat interface nerve electrodes (FINE) connect with the patient’s residual nerves. Prosthetics without the FINE system rely on visual feedback. Partially restoring touch assists anytime eyesight is unavailable to guide a prosthetic – such as reaching into a bag for an item.
In what could be considered one of the ultimate disruptions changing healthcare, exoskeletons will take the field in the 2014 World Cup. A teenager, paralyzed from the waist down, wearing a Walk Again exoskeleton will make the first kick. The suits sensors monitor touch, temperature, and give the user visual feedback.
The US military and General Electric built the first exoskeleton in the 1960s. Hardiman was the first attempt at an exoskeleton. Intended to lift loads up to 1500 pounds, the project was never successful. The full exoskeleton moved uncontrollably. Further research that focused on just an arm could lift 750 pounds of weight, but weighed 1500 pounds by itself.
Outside of military industrial complex applications, Japan’s Tsukuba University developed the Hybrid Assistive Limb (HAL) suit. The system supports and expands the wearer’s capabilities, particularly the handicapped. In 2013, HAL entered clinical trials in Europe, becoming the first non-surgical medical treatment robot.
Nanotechnology opens up the possibility of less-invasive surgeries. The tiny robots could deliver medicine ‘bombs’ directly to treatment sites. Microbivore nanorobots are designed to mimic white blood cells. These bots seek out and attach to particular bacteria. The bacteria are destroyed by the machine and passed back to the bloodstream.
Respirocyte nanorobots are similar to red blood cells. They carry greater quantities of oxygen than native cells. Patients suffering from anemia could use the bots to regulate the concentration of oxygen in their blood.
Finally, cellular repair nanobots perform surgery at the cellular level. The tiny bots are precise, eliminating much of the damage caused by scalpels.
The artificial intelligence that dominated Jeopardy is studying healthcare data. The super computer is focusing on diagnostic problems. Watson formulates patterns and compares current patient information to historic ‘pathways.’ Probabilistic algorithms predict a patient’s potential future diagnosis. Furthermore, Watson can account for current medications, medical conditions, and complications and recommend a path for treatment.
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Researchers at the University of Toronto are working on artificial intelligence that reads DNA. The algorithm can process the entire genome. Trained on millions of data points, it extrapolates genetic information for splicing errors and mutations. The AI detects signs of cancer, autism, muscular dystrophy and thousands more.
What are some disruptions that will change healthcare? Comment Below.
Images From Wikimedia Commons and Shutterstock.