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Future healthcare technology: 5 upcoming technologies that will change healthcare forever

In today’s time, technology is advancing at a rapid pace. In our modern life, the industrial revolution has such a huge influence on our life that we don’t even think about it. Most of the things we do or have today is because of the industrial revolution. 

Do you use electricity? It’s because of the industrial revolution. Do you travel by car or train? Or maybe you like to take a flight instead. It’s all because of the industrial revolution As you probably already know that we as a civilization have already gone through three industrial revolutions. All the industrial revolutions have changed the life of humans on this planet, and most of the time for the better.

First industrial revolution, we can say lasted from 1760 to 1830. Steam engine was discovered during this time and it’s been used extensively during first industrial revolution. Power sources used during these times were water, coal, and steam.

The Second industrial revolution lasted from the late 19th century to the early 20th century. Precisely, you can say from 1850 to 1914. Petroleum and electricity were used as sources of energy during this time. 

Third industrial revolution started in the 1950s. Also known as the digital revolution, it has given us things like  semiconductors, mainframe computers, personal computers and  the Internet.

Industrial revolution and Healthcare

The Industrial revolution had a long lasting effect on human life. It affected many .

Now we are at the brink of another industrial revolution which will be known as the fourth industrial revolution. Fourth industrial revolution is changing medicine and healthcare because of advancements happening in the fields of AI, Nanotechnology, Synthetic biology, Data science, genetic engineering, and stem cell research. This is happening at a lightning-fast speed. 

This revolution will change our lives in ways we’ve never imagined. Its impact on healthcare will be much more profound than all the previous industrial revolutions combined. 

1.Stem cell therapy  

 Stem cell therapy is part of a branch of medicine called regenerative medicine. Now, you might ask, how is regenerative medicine different from traditional medicine, right? Well,  regenerative medicine focuses on regrowing, repairing, or replacing damaged tissues or cells using various modern technologies, whether, on the other hand, traditional medicine just focuses on treating the symptoms of the disease. It uses technology such as stem cell therapy, tissue engineering and even artificial organs.

Regenerative medicine is a comparatively new branch in medicine. It only started in the last century. The term regenerative medicine was coined much later, probably in the nineties.

“Anytime you have healing after an injury, it’s a stem cell mediated event” said Harry Adelson(N.D) (Orthopedic stem cell expert). All tissue repair in the body is initiated by stem cells. But we all know that not all injuries heal at the same rate. Some don’t heal at all. This is because either the patient doesn’t have enough stem cells to fully heal the damaged area or the stem cells that he or she has are not working optimally.

In stem cell or regenerative therapy, stem cells are either taken from the parts of the body where they are plentiful or from an outside source which are then  transplanted  to an area where they are in short supply. 

Stem cell therapy is now being used to reverse aging or aging related problems. It also works well in conditions like Multiple Sclerosis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Osteoarthritis, Spinal cord injury, Asthma, Immune system problems etc.

No drug company or surgical device company is going to tell you about all the benefits of stem cell therapy because it disrupts their industry and affects their profit and market share.

2. Robotic Surgery

 Robotic surgery is already being used by many surgeons. Right now, Robotic surgery is mainly about Robot-assisted surgery. Robots don’t take decisions in the surgery, rather the surgeon who is sitting behind the console and doing the surgery does. It’s the surgeons that actually do the surgery by using a number of robotic arms. Robots here cannot operate independently on their own or make decisions. 

These robotic surgeries are useful in complex operations where a high level of precision is needed. It makes the job of the surgeon much easier. At the same time, these surgeries are less painful than traditional surgeries and has lower chances of infection.

STAR(Soft Tissue Autonomous Robot), is a robot that currently performs better than surgeons in the task of soft tissue suturing.

Israel-based startup Bionaut Labs is building a microscopic robot. It moves through tissues at a speed of 60 centimeters per hour. This robot is remote-controlled. In the future, it will be used in targeted medicine delivery, minimally invasive surgery, and also in the diagnosis of a disease.

There is no limit to where this technology can go. Scientists are developing robots that can perform various surgical procedures autonomously without the help of a human surgeon. Fully automated robots are still a long way to go but work is already in progress.

3.Genetic engineering

In Genetic engineering, also sometimes known as genetic modification, the genes or genetic materials of a plant or an animal(including humans) is modified or manipulated. Genetic engineering includes technologies like gene therapy, gene editing and exon skipping.

Genetic engineering has been used in different fields like agriculture, industrial biotechnology and medicine. It still has a long way to go. In the future, we will be able to cure genetic diseases using technology like gene therapy. More than 10,000 human diseases are caused due to some sorts of mutations happening in the genes. 

Until recently, gene editing was very expensive and complicated. But now we have a revolutionary new gene editing technology called CRISPR. So now the cost has come down a lot and the time taken has also decreased from  years to a few weeks.

Full form of CRISPR is “ Clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats”. This CRISPR technology along with AI is changing the field of medicine. AI is used in the identification of bad or harmful genes.

CRISPR is a system which was actually found in bacteria. They use this system to destroy the DNA of invading organisms like viruses.

Back in 2018, a Chinese scientist called He Jiankui created the world’s first gene edited baby by using CRISPR.

Many scientists think that in the future, we will start applying CRISPR  to treat problems like heart disease, hereditary blindness, cystic  fibrosis and even some mental health problems.

4. Nanomedicine

Use of nanotechnology in medicine could bring a big breakthrough in the way we diagnose diseases.By using nano sized diagnostic devices throughout our bodies, we will be able to diagnose different types of diseases and genetic predisposition earlier than using traditional methods. A single sample can be used to detect the presence of different diseases in someone’s body.

Nanotechnology also has the potential to revolutionize the drug delivery mechanism. Using nanotechnology, we will be able to do targeted delivery of drugs to the affected area which will lower the side-effects.

Use of nanotechnology seems to be very useful in cancer treatment. Many medicines that we use for cancer treatment doesn’t even reach the tumor. Nanoparticles are turning out to be very useful in this regard. We can load cancer drugs in nanoparticles and direct them to the area where we want them to be. Targeted nanoparticles can not only help in cancer, but in other diseases too. It will reduce the side effects of the drug.

5. 3D printing organs

3D printing or additive manufacturing process where a physical object is created from a digital file or blueprint, by adding materials, layer by layer. It is used to manufacture complex parts of machines, cars and airplanes at a much lower cost than traditional manufacturing methods.

Nowadays, 3D printing is also emerging as a powerful tool for tissue engineering. In this method, natural biomaterials are used to create human organs as opposed to materials such as metals or plastics which are used in other forms of 3D printing. Scientists have already 3D printed human ears, a thyroid gland,  and skin. 3D printing will solve the problem of the shortage of organs needed for transplantation.

3D printing is also used to build prosthetics. 3D printed prosthetics will make lives easier for a lot of people. The main benefit is the price. A  3D printed hand or leg would only cost about $50-$60, whether, at the same time, a normal one could cost thousands of dollars. However, presently, the quality of 3D printed materials is not the same as traditionally built ones. But this will change soon.

There are technologies other than 3D printing, which are also being used for creating artificial organs. For example, scientists have created an artificial Lung in a dish using stem cell technology. Although it is not a fully functional human lung, still, it’s a good start. 

Also, another team with Dutch researchers, Roos Masereeuw, from e the University of Utrecht Dimitrios Stamatialis from the University of Twente are pretty close to creating bioartificial kidneys.

Although various methods are available for developing an organ, 3D printing is the most promising because it could be used to make a perfect replica of the patient’s original organ. Also, the use of a patient’s own biomaterial means there will be no chance of rejection of the organ by the patient’s body.

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