Shadowing a DoctorMarch 3, 2015
Medicine advances a little – and sometimes a lot – every single day. From building artificial body parts to using robots for surgeries, here are just a few of the newer medical breakthroughs that sound like they are straight out of a sci-fi movie.
Printing Body Parts
3D printing has been taken to a whole new level with the possibility of body parts getting printed by these machines. Knee joints, jawbones and other joints and bones can now be custom-built or custom-printed at the push of a button using these high-tech printers, which means you can now get a perfectly fitting replacement for almost any body part. In May 2014 a hip replacement was successfully created for the first time using this technology. Efforts are now on to explore the possibility of using the technology to create other organs such as the kidneys and livers from layers of living cells, which could then be transplanted into patients.
A Bionic Eye
A new retinal implant called the bionic eye promises new hope for people suffering from gradual loss of sight due to genetic problems. The device is made up of two parts – a camera that is fitted onto a pair of glasses and a microchip that is surgically implanted behind the retina. The glasses transmit images to the microchip, allowing the person to see images. This technology is still at a very early stage of development and its use is limited to those who suffer from gradual vision loss due to the genetic disorder retinitis pigmentosa. Researchers are working to refine the technology and make it sensitive enough to help people read.
Artificially Grown Human Lungs
After years of tireless efforts, scientists at the University of Texas finally succeeded in growing a pair of human lungs in 2014. The way in which this was done is no less astounding. The lungs were created in a modified fish tank purchased at a pet store. The researchers stripped away all of the healthy tissue from the lungs of children who had died in an accident and made use only of the lung frame, which is made up of a protein called elastin. The frame was then covered with cells from another lung, dunked in a nutrient-rich liquid rich and left to grow in the modified fish tank. It worked! However, this still has to go through several stages of testing before it can be used on humans. Researchers say this could take at least another 12 years.
Robots in the Medical Field
Robot technology is already being used in select operating theatres. Some hospitals have started using ‘remote presence robots’ that come equipped with a two-way screen. Doctors can now diagnose and advise patients without even being in the same room by simply looking at them through the two-way screen. They can move and direct these remote-controlled robots from hundreds or even thousands of miles away by simply using a joystick.
Another robot related breakthrough is the bionic skeleton, designed by Dr Amit Goffer who is a quadriplegic. The bionic skeleton or robotic suit is a kind of exoskeleton that can help paralysed people walk again.