At a glance, the future of medicine appears to be bleak. With the rise of drug resistant bacteria and virus and increasing life expectancy, there is growingconcern that an ageing world population will cripple health care systems around the world. In many developed countries, there are fears that future health care cost will cripple economies at the expense of younger generations.
However, the advent of the internet, powerful computing resources and a new generation of brilliant scientific minds have opened up new doors for the human race. There have been many technological advances made in the field of medicine over the past decade, and the pace is expected to become even more rapid. So much so, we can actually look forward to a host of new medical treatments and therapies over the next decade or so.
Don’t look so surprised. After all, medical technology of the previous century eradicated smallpox and developed organ transplant technologies – medical challenges previously deemed insurmountable. So what revolutionary medical procedures can we look forward to in the near future?
Current diagnostic method is limited to external observations, internal scans (MRI, X-rays, etc.) and analysis of body samples (blood, urine, etc.). While relatively effective, they provided limited data to doctors. We can’t really complaint, since all of these diagnostic tools are several decades old. However, new diagnostic methods are on the horizon. One such method is called augmented reality technology, where doctors can have real time imaging of internal organs during surgery. Another method is swallowable capsules which are equipped with miniature imaging devices capable of providing detailed internal images of the body. These images will help doctors make better decisions on treatments and interventions. Both of these technologies are available currently, though they are expected to become more sophisticated within years.
Current medicinal technology is based on a one size fits all approach. With personalised medicine, patients are provided personalised drug therapy and surgical solutions based on advanced diagnostic tools. Currently, a German biotech company called BioNTech are already delivering personalised cancer vaccines to 560 patients around the world. In a few years’ time, customised antibiotics are expected to hit the market, which will signal the end of antibiotic resistant super bugs.
Also known as genome editing or genome engineering, gene editing is a scientific discipline which allows geneticists to manually alter, add or remove specific genes inside the human body or organisms which will permanently cure specific diseases. Gene editing is still at an embryonic stage, so much more research needs to be performed. However, many are predicting that gene editing will be a common form of treatment within 20 years. Nevertheless, there are fears that gene editing will be abused, or worse, weaponised.
The demand for organ replacementcontinues to increase with each passing year. Unlike, artificial limb replacements, organs cannot be replaced with prosthetic devices. Instead, organs, such as kidneys, livers, and lungs, are grown from the stem cells of patients inside a laboratory. As it is now, scientists have already grown human cells inside pig embryos. Decades of empty promises about stem cells have made most of us a little blasé on the subject, but we are actually on the verge of the era of artificial organ - synthetic organs will be available within the next ten years.