Healthcare Technology Featured Article

March 06, 2020

The Astonishing Future of Medicine




Medical history is replete with memorable medical moments captured on faded print illustrations. For instance, the Pharmacy in Babylonia depicts a physician scrutinizing a vial next to a blanketed patient in a stupor on a bed with anxious women hovering above him. However, the future will make the advances of the past pale in comparison. Medical futurists are thrilled by emerging technologies like cell sorting, the genomics revolution, 3D bioprinting, and virtual physiologies. 

Cell Sorting 

Cell sorting is the science of extracting cells from an organism and separating them into homologous populations; clusters based on position, structure, size, morphology, or surface protein expression. Separating cells, labeling, and tagging them helps identify their functions and effects, which is immensely useful for research work or therapeutic applications. 

Scientists can separate cells through microfluidic cell sorting technology that exploits magnetophoresis, the action of a magnetic field on a molecule of magnetic material. Since fluids in red blood cells are heavy with hemoglobin and white blood cells display magnetophoretic properties, scientists can efficiently separate red blood cells, which are paramagnetic, i.e. weakly attracted to magnetic poles, and white blood cells, which are diamagnetic, magnetizing 180 degrees to a magnetic field.

Genomics 

Genomics will play a key role in the future of medicine. Genomics is instrumental in the design of personalized medicine. It won’t be long before clinical decisions about any health issue will rely more on genomic information than the current medical model of mapping symptoms to known diseases. In the new paradigm, a doctor will simply review a person’s genome to understand whether a drug or medical treatment will be effective. 

The genomic revolution impacts many scientific disciplines. Evolutionary biologists can use it to understand how species adapt to a novel environment, while medical researchers can use it to evaluate how tumors react to specific drugs. 

3D Bioprinting 

Currently, 3D bioprinting can only print simple tissue. But in the future, technologists expect bioprinters to print out cells and vital organs. 

This technology opens up incredible medical possibilities. Patients will no longer have to wait for an organ donor or risk transplant rejection when the immune system attacks a new organ or grafted tissue. Instead of relying on a donor, a bio-mimetic organ fabricated from a 3D bioprinter will print out a replacement organ.  Although this technology has been available for the past twenty years, it is not yet capable of constructing complex biological tissue. 

Nanomedicine 

Nano comes from the Greek word for “dwarf.” A nanometer is a unit of measurement that is a billionth of a meter (0.000000001). The Max Planck Institute has been experimenting with nano-sized robots to deliver drugs to targeted organs. These robots are so tiny that they can swim in body fluids, such as the bloodstream or lymphatic system. They can even glide across the fluidic surface of eyeballs. 

Virtual Physiologies 

Before scientists develop new drugs, they are first tested on animals to see if they are toxic. Once satisfied that the chemicals will not damage living tissue, scientists then solicit the assistance of human volunteers to see what effects the drugs have at various dosages and durations. 

Although animal activists protest against cruelty to animals and clinical trials that can endanger human volunteers, scientists have not found a more benign way to see if drugs are safe and efficacious—until now. 

The Virtual Physiological Human (VPH) Institute in Europe is working on in silico modeling of physiologic systems. VPH scientists aspire to replace controlled in vitro experiments with computer models of pharmacologic processes or physiologic systems. Additionally, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is preparing regulatory activities to review clinical trial data from mechanism-based absorption modeling. 

In summary, groundbreaking medical advances in cell sorting, genomics, 3D bioprinting, nanomedicine, and virtual physiologies will utterly revise our collective vision of the future of healthcare. 


 





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