How many times have you turned on the TV and the news was talking about how big of a disaster Obamacare is? How many times have you turned on the TV and the news was covering a notable person passing away from a deadly disease? The media is always focused on the negative and, to a degree, I understand why: because that is what gets reader’s attention. However, this article is going to take a look at the other side of the health and medical industry. Positive advances in the medical and health industry may not garner as many headlines, but there are certainly numerous positive advances that have been made in terms of medical technology and health phenomenon. Whether it is a new cancer treatment with less adverse effects or stem cell research, these advances are happening and can potentially help you one day if you were to become sick.
1: Robot Nurse Assistant
Nurses have one of the hardest jobs in the world. Having to take care of people and monitor them at the same time could potentially have a negative impact on the nurse’s ability to do their job adequately. Even worse, if the nurse is not doing their job up to the necessary standards, then their actions could adversely affect one of their patients. Having a job at a hospital provides an inherently stressful work environment because one is consistently attending to people with a plethora of different needs. However, imagine there was a way to fix this by creating an assistant for the nurses.
The robotic nursing assistants do just that. That is right; a robot has been created that is designed to help human nurses in the workplace. Despite the fact that these robots will not completely take away the stress of the job from the humans, there are a number of benefits. Most of the benefits revolve around the robot assistant handling the transfer of patients from one place to another. Specifically, primary benefits include: reduced incidence of nurse workplace injuries, less patient falls and injuries due to improper lifting along with improved nurse retention.
2: Liquid Biopsy for Cancer
Cancer is one of the most prevalent diseases in the world today. In just the United States alone, cancer is estimated to kill almost 600,000 people per year. When someone is diagnosed with cancer, it is usually an excruciating and painful process because of the methods used to treat cancer along with the ways specialists tend to diagnose cancer.
Despite that tendency, there is a method gaining traction that could make it less painful for people being screened for cancer: the liquid biopsy. Basically, the process of performing a liquid biopsy involves fragments of DNA that are shed by tumors into the bloodstream which can be used to non-invasively screen for cancer. In a lot of cases, the common tissue biopsy is painful and potentially risky for the patient receiving one. Although the liquid biopsy is far from complete, strides have been made to enact these more frequently. The FDA has approved a liquid biopsy that measures circulating tumor cells with the goal of giving a more accurate prognosis for survival.
3: Wearable Sensors
For most people seeking out medical care and advice, they must go into their doctor’s office to receive any kind of information as it pertains to their condition. However, 16 years into the 21st century, it appears that we are on the verge of a digital revolution when it comes to healthcare. People will soon be able to have various aspects of their health monitored by their doctor without ever leaving the comfort of their own home. It may sound crazy, but a wearable sensor has already been developed by the company Vital Connect. The device is called the HealthPatch MD, a wearable device that enables doctors to keep tabs on the vital information of their patients. This incredible device has the ability to keep track of a person’s heart rate, breathing, temperature, steps, and body position in case a person falls. It gets better; the HealthPatch MD is compatible with Bluetooth and has been cleared by the FDA. It is only a matter of time until every doctor in the country is using a device like this.
4: Stem Cell Hearts
What do you do with a car part when it does not work anymore? You replace it. What if you were able to do this with human parts as well? Well, scientists have been working towards developing a new heart for people from their own stem cells. It is extremely hard for someone that requires a heart transplant to get one. Out of the 4,000 people that needed heart transplants in 2016, only 2,500 were expected to receive one. Furthermore, the people that receive hearts for their transplant take the risk of their body rejecting the heart, resulting in a large immune system attack on foreign cells. A heart made from a person’s stem cells sounds amazing, but it is not a foolproof project just yet; it is massively easier for a scientist to construct a working heart in the lab that will not be placed in a human body. This is because organs have a specific structure and it must fit into the body perfectly. Constructing a human heart out of a person’s own stem cells is unlike anything we have seen before and it could save thousands of lives if scientists get it right.
5: Cancer Immunotherapy
We all know the most common types of cancer treatments: chemotherapy and radiation. These methods have been used on millions of patients with an enormous amount of adverse side effects such as nausea, vomiting, mouth sores, and even secondary malignancy due to radiation and chemotherapy. To make matters worse, these types of treatments do not even distinguish between cancer and normal cells, thus putting the patient at an increased risk.
There is a growing alternative to these treatments and it comes in the form of immunotherapy. Essentially the concept of immunotherapy is that you unleash the body’s immune system to attack cancer. In 2011, the first immunotherapy drug was approved by the FDA for advanced melanoma. Subsequently, positive results ensued; cancer immunotherapy is now being used to treat more aggressive forms of cancer including cancer of the lung, kidney, and head. This form of alternative treatment was used on former President of the United States, Jimmy Carter, whom was being treated for advanced stage melanoma, which had spread to his liver and brain. Today, Mr. Carter has been declared cancer free thanks to immunotherapy.
6: The Decreasing Prevalence of Smoking Cigarettes
Remember when your parents would say, “Back in my day a pack of cigarettes cost me 25 cents”? Now, the price of a pack of cigarettes has skyrocketed, but the rate of people smoking has not. Students and adults are smoking cigarettes at historically low levels with the former at 15.7% and the latter at 17.8%. I tend to believe that the low smoking rate is attributed to the campaign against smoking cigarettes because of the immense toll it takes on your body. Smoking cigarettes is the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the United States, accounting for more than 480,000 deaths per year. That is 1 of every 5 deaths, or 20%. Clearly, the percentage is still relatively high, but considering that people are smoking at very low rates, one can conclude many deaths will be prevented based on tendencies to avoid smoking.
Cigarettes used to be advertised like candy and there were even billboards at stadiums with a tobacco company’s logo on it, but times have changed and the people have listened to the facts.
7: Extended Aids Survival Anti-Retroviral Therapy
It was not long ago that the HIV/AIDS virus was considered a death sentence especially before the turn of the century. However, as time went on, scientists started to develop better methods of treating the immune system virus and none turned out to be better than the anti-retroviral therapy. The latest form of the anti-retroviral therapy, which is a combination of medicines used at a slow rate to treat the virus, has shown that people with HIV are living longer. A study performed by Professor Johnathan Sterne of Bristol University along with other colleagues suggested there was a sharp decline in mortality rates from 1996-2005. In the time window of 1996-1999, there were 16.3 deaths per 100,000 people while in the window of 2003-2005 that number dropped to 10.0 deaths per 100,000 people. That is a 40% decrease in deaths. Very impressive I must say.
This form of combined therapy signifies that scientists are making drastic progress in treating a disease that was arguably the most feared disease in the world at a point in time. Magic Johnson would be proud.
With all this advancement in medical technology, it was inevitable that scientists would find a way to develop miniscule robots to treat a disease. Nano-bots, as they are referred to, are microscopic robots that have the potential for significant use in the medical field. Most notably, these robots are being used to treat people that have cancer. But, how can this be done?
Interestingly enough, a team of scientists in Israel is starting to use humans in clinical trials to test out of the effectiveness of this potential treatment. These robots are designed to seek out cancer cells, decipher them from normal cells, and then deliver the treatment to those cells. The idea is that utilizing Nano-bots for treating certain conditions will be substantially less invasive than the common methods.
It remains to be seen how soon this treatment will actually be used in your average hospital, but it is exciting regardless to see what the future may hold. The end goal is for Nano-bots to one day make surgery and medical treatments safer for the patient along with being able to target the problem at the source. Their precise accuracy is something that will revolutionize the medical industry if it ever makes it into mainstream treatments.
9: Smartphone Stethoscope
The stethoscope, the most widely recognized tool in the medical industry, has been turned into a smartphone app. Three business school graduates created the app, thus making themselves the youngest people to receive clearance for a Class 2 medical device from the FDA. The stethoscope may be the oldest medical device known to man, so needless to say it was about time that it entered the 21st century. Instead of healthcare professionals manually writing in their patient’s heartbeat records, with this app, they are capable of digitally recording their heartbeat. A huge advantage to this app is the ability to recognize any type of heart murmur with a great deal of ease. Evidence has been presented that when doctors listened to pre-recorded tapes, they were incapable of identifying up to 50% of basic murmurs and approximately 33% of advanced murmurs, so this device will without question make doctor’s jobs a lot easier and more efficient. The future is here for the stethoscope and it is here to stay.
10: Artificial Retina
There may be a solution to helping the blind recover their eyesight and it comes in the form of an artificial retina. It is called the Argus 2, which is manufactured by Second Sight Medical Products. As this point in time, the artificial retina is still in its early stages since the resolution is limited to 60 pixels. Despite this, there have been significant strides made in the product’s capabilities to help people with retinitis pigmentosa, a hereditary disease that limits someone’s ability to see light. The device enabled people to read large letters, determine the location of moving objects, and detect street curbs.
The artificial retina was later approved by the FDA on February 14, 2013. The Argus 2 could have serious implications for people that have trouble seeing, imagine if a blind person was able to see just by purchasing one of these items.
As a country, it is obvious that we have a lot of things to look forward to in the medical industry. Technology is evolving at an immense rate and it shows no signs of slowing down. Moreover, people are developing healthier habits, making people more likely to live longer. It is exciting to think about what the future holds in terms of medical technology and better living habits.
–Contributed by: Bobby Amendola