10 Medical Breakthroughs Expected in the Next 10 Years
In terms of medical technology, science fiction is becoming science reality very quickly. The developments that have happened in this field over the last 10 years are things that only authors such as Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, Arthur C. Clarke, and Orson Scott Card could have envisioned. Looking at the past, and seeing what corporations and research teams are currently trying to do, the next 10 years of medical development could be just as exciting.
10. Bionic Enhancements
This break through is already here. Comparable to the TV show The Million Dollar Man , a bionic enhancement is really just a bridge between current technology and the realization and development of fully functional stem cell treatment. Bionic enhancements are artificially created prosthetics that are currently being used to treat individuals that have suffered traumatic injuries resulting in loss of limbs and organs.
Scientists and Research teams all over the world are currently testing a new generation of prosthetics that provide the power and control of natural limbs. The latest development in this field is an artificially created ankle joint that provides the user the same amount of mobility as an individual who has not suffered a major injury. In the next 10 years society could see these prosthetics being offered to individuals who have not had an injury as a way to enhance their strength, mobility, and stamina. The biggest potential user of this technology would be the military.
9. Restoration of sight
This is already here and being tested . Scientists are doing research on implants that will have the ability to help people who have become blind over the course of their lifetime regain sight. By implanting a microchip into an individual’s eye and linking the chip to a pair of video enabled glasses, scientists are able to bypass the dead nerve endings that are attributed to the loss of sight.
Additionally, scientists are currently working on deep brain implants with electrodes that may have the potential to bring sight to individuals who are blind from birth (again, coupling the implants with special glasses). What does this mean? It means that in 10 years, being blind could be a thing of the past, and that society will have to get used to people walking around with Star Trek like sight visors.
8. Neural Enhancements
Continuing the trend of implants and microchips, we come to neural enhancements. Scientists are currently learning more and more about the brain and the way it works every day. By using microchips, or a matrix of fiber optic wires to bridge damaged areas of the brain, we may have a way to successfully treat and cure a multitude of neurological conditions such as strokes and Alzheimer’s disease, very similar to Neal Stephenson’s book Interface . Bridging neural gaps with microchip implants leads to a number of uses for the technology including education and expansion of brain use. However, the fact that there is a microchip imbedded in an individual’s neural cortex may lead to some ethical issues including tampering and brainwashing.
This sort of development may not come in the next 10 years, but development on the use of microchips in the brain is already progressing , and may offer great hope to people whose brain has been damaged in a severe way.
7. Eradication of genetic conditions
The human genome project is over, and scientists know more about how our genetic structure affects us than ever before. Currently researchers and corporations are using DNA therapy to vaccinate against dangerous diseases . However, because of what we know now and are learning about our genetic make up, society could be looking at a future where genetic deficiencies no longer exist. Although it may sound very much like the movie Gattaca coming to life, its already here. Embryos in the United Kingdom are being screened for Squints .
Current technology already allows couples to have â€œthe perfect childâ€ devoid of any serious genetic conditions, and the prevalence of such diseases in society will continue to lessen as more and more embryos are screened before birth. Although this brings up numerous ethical considerations, the fact of the matter is that many people will want children who will be free of any debilitating genetic conditions, and the use of this technology is already here.
6. Enhanced intellect
With our knowledge of DNA and our ability to screen children before birth for a number of diseases and conditions, we may be looking at a new generation of extremely intelligent and healthy individuals. This comes about because, as our knowledge of our genes continues to expand, so will our ability to choose the best traits. In an extremely Orson Scott Card scenario, we could be outclassed by our children at some point in the near future.
5. Extended life span
Continuing with the topic of DNA and genetic recombination, one of the breakthroughs that we may potentially see is the development of a genetic cure for old age. With medical nanotechnology being extensively researched at the moment, using this knowledge scientists may be able to stop the affects of the genetic breakdowns that are attributed to aging . Using technology very similar to that found in Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars Trilogy science may be able to stop the aging process by introducing nanobots/nanocells that may have the ability to repair extensive genetic damage. This breakthrough may be more than 10 years away (depending on the funding that scientists get) but nanotechnology is already being used and is in development . Combined with what we know about DNA and genetics there are a whole host of issues that may be solved with this technology.
4. Death of debilitating neurological diseases
The complete development of stem cell technology is being eagerly awaited by scientists and doctors everywhere. Because of the nature of stem cells (their ability to grow into anything), they offer scientists the ability to cure such conditions as Parkinson’s disease. Because stem cells can repair damage it may lead to a case where conditions such as Alzheimer’s are no longer treated with medication but with stem cells designed to repair and regrow the damaged neurons in an individual’s brain. The biggest issue for stem cell research however, is the activism against obtaining these cells from unborn fetus’s and embryos, as many people see this as the death of a living being.
However, with the knowledge that scientists can now obtain these cells from different sources, such as an umbilical cord or nose proteins , stem cell research could rapidly develop.
3. Replacement limbs
Stem cells have the ability to grow into anything. Let’s look at it like this, for those of you who have read Dune , think about the Tleilaxu organ vats. For those of you who haven’t read the Frank Herbert books, Stem cells basically offer us infinite possibilities for re-growing limbs and organs that have been damaged in some way. Vat grown, tailor made replacements for people who have suffered serious trauma.
By creating cell banks where parents deposit their child’s cells at birth, we could see prostheses and transplants completely disappear from the world of medicine.
Suspended animation, or cryonics, is one of the topics that appear most frequently in Science Fiction. From authors like Fredrick Pohl and Isaac Asimov, to pop culture, cryogenics has long fascinated humanity. Although there is no current way to reverse the affects of cryonic freezing, science hopes with the advent of readily available nanotechnology, this technology may soon become widespread. Science can already freeze and reanimate small cells and embryos, the issue evolves when they are tasked with reanimating whole organs. The brain for example, develops serious tears and rips when it is frozen, the task that science has in front of them is the ability to fix those tears or stop them from happening.
The technology for cryonics is already here . It’s the reanimation part that’s tricky.
1. Cure for Cancer.
Combining all of our scientific knowledge of the above breakthroughs may lead to a total and final cure for cancer. Medical technology is already offering treatments for certain types of cancer that are more conclusive than anything previously available . Cancer is one of the oldest and deadliest of all human conditions and diseases. The ability to cure cancer would open up the field of medical science to explore cures for a number of other deadly conditions, including HIV/AIDS.
There are currently more reliable treatments for cancer than ever before , and scientists are exploring more all the time. By learning about cancer and its causes we are understanding more and more about how our body’s work and the factors contributing to many diseases. Science is on the doorstep of solving this problem, and researchers are hopeful of finding a concrete solution soon.
There you have it. The 10 medical breakthroughs that are expected in the next decade; this list may be complete speculation, but all the technology for these breakthroughs is currently under development. The next 10 years in medicine should be a time of great excitement for science and great hope for al of humanity in general. It would be fantastic to see all of these dreams realized.