4 science fiction ideas realised in medical technology

20170318130000, Bee Kee Ng
The technology once envisioned in sci-fi movies now exists in medical technology.
It may seem unreal but the medical technology has successfully brought science fiction technology into existence, leading the healthcare services to a higher level and bringing more medical breakthroughs.

Here are four examples of how medical technology is getting closer to science fiction movies.

1. Restoring eyesight with Star Trek-style headset

The medical technology firm, eSight, has introduced a new headset dubbed the eSight 3. The headset may hit the fans of Star Trek: The Next Generation as it resembles the high-tech visor LeVar Burton’s character used to modify his own vision.

With a liquid lens, optical prisms and a high-resolution display, it enhances legally blind people’s ability to see. The liquid lens can focus camera fast like the human eye in less than one millisecond. With the feature called “bioptic tilt”, wearers can even access their peripheral vision. Besides, a special controller connected to the headset allows the wearers to adjust the contrast and the size whereas the built-in light can illuminate the scene, especially in low-light situations.

Even though eSight 3 is currently more effective on diseases such as macular degeneration and diabetes-related vision los, eSight CEO, Dr Brian Mech, explained that it has more than 50% chance of working with various eye conditions.

“The beautiful thing is it’s not surgical, it’s not medication, it’s not a drug. So you can just try it on,” said Mech.

2. Wound healing with medi-gels and molecules

When the story Microhands written by Russian author Boris Zhitkov in 1931 narrated the story of carrying out surgeries with miniature hands, it built the foundation for nanoscience research. Like Bioware’s Mass Effect in the video games where players can heal characters’ injuries with the miraculous medi-gels, veti-gel can also stop an arterial bleed in seconds.

Made of polysaccharide polymers found on the plants’ cell wall, the gel can mimic the structure of the extracellular matrix, where the cells lies, when applied to wounds. It acts as scaffolding for the matrix to reform and stop bleeding without any pressure.

On the other hand, a team has developed gel nanoparticles that help slow the migration of skin cells to wounds targeting a specific enzyme (FL2). It is hypothesised that decreasing the enzyme can increase the rates of wound healing.

As the delivery of the Silencing RNA (SiRNA) molecules used to slow down the enzyme is difficult, they are placed inside nano-sized gel shells to ease their transport into cells. This helps to heal the wounds twice as fast as they were not while keeping the normal tissue regeneration.

3. Medical diagnosis with Star Trek-style tricorder

The Star Trek series 50 years ago visualised a handheld medical device that could diagnose every condition by swiping over the patients’ body. While the tricorder acted only as their futuristic gadgets, the real-world scientists have been realising it in a Qualcomm Tricorder X Prize competition launched in 2012.

Based in Boston, the Dynamical Biomarkers Group (DGB), a research group from the National Central University in Taiwan are still improving the designs of their prototype. Their team is evaluating its design with decades-old patient data from the hospital and current clinical trials in Taiwan.

The X Prize evaluators tested the gadget’s ability to diagnose 10 required conditions whereas the finalists’ devices are also in the consumer-testing stage. Dr Andrew Ahn, DBG’S lead medical advisor commented that the use of dynamic biomarkers could improve medical treatment.

Ahn said, “Our primary goal is to enhance health and empower patients… It’s an exciting time to be working on this.”

4. Surgery procedure with 3D imaging

Larry Smarr, a physicist at University of California in San Diego is a famous technologist who runs a futuristic institute. His works advance into various fields, including medicine.

When he had inflammatory bowel disease, he created automated software for abdominal procedures using pioneering visuals. Turned out, Smarr discovered the 3D computer visuals that are standard in video games are not available to surgeons although they could detect unexpected anatomical variations that can affect surgeries.

Days before his colon surgery, Smarr invited his surgeon, Dr Sonia Ramamoorthy, to his virtual reality (VR) cave to see the 3D image of his colon. From there, he helped his surgeon avoid a complication, which would have required more time and incisions. Since then, Smarr and Ramamoorthy see the future of 3D imaging in the standard of care more directly in colon and other abdominal surgeries.

Smarr is confident that his institute can play a role in training a new generation of medical imaging VR experts. MIMS

Read more:
7 bio-inspired inventions that are transforming medicine
10 medical innovations that changed the world: Devices and technology
4 medical advances that are helping the developing world

Sources:
http://fortune.com/2017/02/16/esight-headset-blind-vision/
https://www.cnet.com/news/esight-video-glasses-restores-sight-legally-blind-star-trek-visor-headset/
https://theconversation.com/five-ways-nanoscience-is-making-science-fiction-into-fact-71122
https://www.statnews.com/2017/02/21/x-prize-tricorder-medicine/
https://www.statnews.com/2017/03/09/colon-virtual-reality/
http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/health/sd-me-smarr-colon-20170308-story.html