It might not always seem like it, but we’re entering a whole new realm of medical science. The life-changing wonders on the horizon are closer than ever. For all intents and purposes, they’re here already, but not quite ready for everyday life.
Think about this: the first MRI machine, the incredible invention that allows us to find problems without painful exploratory surgery, is almost 40 years old. And yet it still kind of seems like cutting-edge technology, doesn’t it? Shouldn’t we have more advanced tools than that?
Well, we do. And it turns out medical science has been even busier than we thought. The future of medicine has landed, and life for the coming generations might not even be recognizable.
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1. Brain implants to communicate directly with computers.
Sounds like science fiction, but the U.S. military successfully implanted and tested a “brain modem” in animals that could one day lead soldiers to control machinery on the battlefield. More interestingly, they accomplished the feat without invasive surgery.
Other researchers have developed a “neural lace” that merges with the brain and could help monitor brain activity, combat degenerative disorders, and enhance the brain.
via The Cellulord
2. Bionic eyes.
Developed at Australia’s University of New South Wales, the fully implantable bionic eye could restore vision to millions around the world.
via DeviantArt / FreeRoler
3. Stem cell treatment for blindness.
Rather than receiving mechanical help for blindness, apparently stem cells can help regenerate the optic nerves. It’s a controversial breakthrough because the doctor who performed the treatment can’t explain how it works, but for the patient he helped, it did indeed work.
via PBS NewsHour | WIN-Initiative / Getty Images
4. The first successful uterus transplant.
Infertility was struck a huge blow when doctors at the Cleveland Clinic performed a uterus transplant on a 26-year-old woman.
5. A stem cell treatment that “switches off” type 1 diabetes.
The discovery of insulin revolutionized diabetes care and saved countless lives, but it’s been almost a century since that discovery. Now, with stem cells, researchers have developed a treatment that protects the insulin-producing cells from the immune system’s attacks in type 1 diabetics. That could mean a future without daily insulin injections!
via imgur / kenfager
6. Information can be instantly transferred to the brain.
Just like in The Matrix, scientists have developed a way to stimulate learning so that people can pick up skills like piloting an airplane faster than they could otherwise.
via imgur / FaceOfDave
7. Engineered bacteria.
Bacteria gets a bad rap because it’s so often the culprit in sickness and death, but there are also beneficial bacteria. Good bacteria help prevent infections and aid with bodily functions like digestion. Now, researchers are engineering those good bacteria to gather in large groups — they’re referring to the clusters as “swarmbots” — with the hopes that they’ll be able to perform their important tasks even better and more responsively.
via Tumblr / aztectheater
8. 3D printed organs.
It’s technically called additive manufacturing, but whatever you call it, 3D printing is revolutionizing medicine. These high-tech machines have already been adapted to create skin and bone tissues, vascular grafts, tracheal splints, cartilage, and even more complex structures such as an ear and a heart. This technology might just have the power to eliminate transplant waiting lists altogether.
via ScienceDaily | Materialise
9. Lab-grown, um, fertilizer.
In another blow struck in the battle against infertility, researchers successfully grew functioning sperm from stem cells.
via IFLScience | Kateryna Kon / Shutterstock
10. A cure for leukemia.
The cure for leukemia might just come from the least likely source: HIV. Emily Whitehead, who was diagnosed with leukemia at age 5, needed desperate measures to save her life. Her doctors tried using a concoction involving a modified HIV virus to attack the cancer. Used in combination with a drug that prevents her immune system from attacking itself while still attacking the cancer, the doctors found Emily cancer-free. Her treatment sparked new trials, and they’ve had remarkable results.
via Cosmos | Kari Whitehead Photography / AFP
11. Increasingly advanced prosthetics.
We have already seen how brain-to-tech interfaces are receiving more attention. They’re also helping amputees and people with spinal injuries in ways we could only imagine at one time. The advancement of interfaces will allow patients to move prosthetic limbs and exoskeletons using only their minds. The concept has already been proven with patients being able to move individual fingers on a prosthetic hand.
via Smithsonian.com | DARPA
12. Gene editing.
Using a technique called CRISPR, scientists can quickly, easily, and inexpensively alter genes, allowing them to edit out genetic diseases and pathogens. Of course, this has opened up an ethical Pandora’s Box. But in terms of raw potential, it’s not just a game-changer — it’s a world-changer.
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Main image via Smithsonian.com / DARPA
Collage image via Science in Our World: Certainty and Controversy