It's all too easy to roll your eyes at yet another Apple announcement, or some fancy new stylus for your fancy new tablet, or a "smart" water bottle that coaches you how to drink water like an infant. Over-hyped gizmos come and go, but there's a whole world of cutting edge tech out there actually worth getting super excited about. I'm talking about the wild innovations in medical tech currently in development that will not only save peoples' lives, but will keep us living for a hell of a lot longer than you ever dreamed possible.
Anti-aging pills and proteins will keep you alive well past 100
We mortal humans have been searching for a fountain of youth for as long as we’ve been roaming the Earth. There are a number of startups currently dedicated to beating the aging process -- one is Elysium Health, run by an MIT biologist who believes that tweaking our metabolisms is the key to living longer. His research shows that ingesting certain compounds has extended the healthy lifespan of lab rats, and markets the product in a little blue over-the-counter anti-aging pill.
It’s not just the little guys who are investing in this stuff, though. The Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis is trying to harness the power of a mysterious protein; injecting it into the blood of older mice has been shown to reverse aging and rejuvenate brain and muscle function. Even Google’s in on the mission. It’s incubated a stealth health firm known as Calico with a singular mission: extend human lifespans.
Nanobots will swim in your bloodstream and eliminate early cancer cells How's this for sci-fi: tadpole-esque disease-fighters will swim through our bloodstreams to fend off cancer and other jerk cells trying to kill us. Researchers at Harvard’s Wyss Institute have been developing ways to deploy special “robots” made from synthetic DNA that would seek out and destroy cancerous cells, even before they’ve been detected in a patient. Early studies in cell cultures and animals have been promising, and the first human trial was conducted last year.
We'll be able to 3D print replacement organs
3D printers have done some cool stuff -- you know, helping people with ill-fitting earbuds, college kids with crooked teeth... turtles. But thanks to some huge developments in the field of regenerative medicine, 3D printing is about to get a lot more legit. The ability to print living tissue -- suitable for implant into live humans -- is (nearly) here. The Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine has built a device called the Integrated Tissue and Organ Printing System, which layers living cells atop a “scaffolding” of biodegradable plastic to create growing muscles, cartilage, and even bone. It sounds crazy, but in animal tests, these implanted pieces of tissue have actually been shown to thrive. So as soon as they confirm the long-term safety of it, it'll be possible to print out replacement organs for you and your loved ones, which is a way better scenario than the organ harvesting that went on in that Scarlett Johansson flick.
Surgeons can use virtual reality to avoid risky surgeries
Virtual and augmented reality is going to make our concerts and football games way more badass in the future, but its also a huge game changer for doctors. Instead of the shitty 2D animations doctors use today, 3D renderings of patients will eliminate the need to perform dangerous procedures in order to determine a prognosis or treatment plan.
VR and AR expert Jody Medich told me about a four-month old girl with a congenital heart condition who was deemed inoperable, as there was no way to accurately see what was going on with her heart without cutting her chest open and physically feeling around -- an incredibly dangerous thing to do to an infant. But doctors got creative and converted her 2D MRI scans into a 3D model they could assess in VR via Google Cardboard. It let them see everything they needed and ultimately saved her life.
Drone ambulances will be the new first responders
The likelihood of surviving a massive heart attack or serious injury is directly correlated to how quickly an ambulance can get to you. That means a whole lot of people in both remote and densely populated places can be shit out of luck when it comes to emergencies. Enter: the Drone Ambulance. These nimble copters would zoom to the location packed with all the necessary first-responder tools (and in some cases even an actual medic) while a dispatcher on the other end instructs bystanders how to stabilize the patient until they can get them to the hospital.
Instant diagnostic tests will result in faster and more effective treatment
Most doctors will tell you there’s no better treatment for disease than early detection, and often times simply waiting for results can leave you in a dangerous lurch. As a result, there’s been a big push to develop instant diagnosis techniques. The handheld Scanadu Vitals device, which has been compared to the famous Star Trek Tricorder, can take all your vital signs in mere seconds -- a game changer not only for busy nurses and doctors, but first-responders. Another area being explored will radically change how we conduct blood tests. The company Theranos received a lot of attention in the last couple years for claiming it had developed a way to instantly test for diseases using just a drop of a person’s blood (no more needles!), and while it’s come under scrutiny for overstating some of its findings, it maintains that the technology is legit.