MPMN_Medical Product Manufacturing News

Medical Product Manufacturing News, September/October 2015

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Image courtesy of Devrimb/istockphoto.com M E D I C A L P R O D U C T M A N U F A C T U R I N G N E W S Q M E D . C O M / M P M N 2 6 S E P T E M B E R / O C T O B E R 2 0 1 5 I t is hard to fathom how many advances have been directly inspired by science fiction. Smartphones, robots, the Internet, helicopters, bionic eyes, and rocket ships were all described by science fiction authors before they become a reality. As Igor Sikorsky, inventor of the helicopter, put it: "Anything that one man can imagine, another man can make real." The genre continues to help drive advances applicable to the medical field as well. Here are 10 science fiction-inspired technologies that could be the next to break into medtech. VR Medical Imaging Long a staple of science fiction, having been featured in Aldous Huxley's Brave New World and Star Trek, virtual reality (VR) could be the next big thing in technology. Virtual reality, when coupled with augmented reality technology, could be worth as much as $150 billion by 2020, according to the firm Digi-Capital. VR isn't just about gaming, however. The technology could be used for a variety of medical applications, ranging from training surgeons to redefining physical therapy. The startup EchoPixel already has 510(k) clearance for its anatomical virtual reality system, which enables clinicians to virtually peer into a patient's' tissue and organs as if they were real physical objects. This is a stark contrast to such things as 2-D x-rays or even CT and MRI images, which can render 3-D images but to date have displayed them on a flat screen. Robots in Medicine Famed VC investor Vinodh Khosla created something of a ruckus in 2012 when he suggested that algorithms could ultimately be more efficient at treating patients than doctors. Calling modern medicine "witchcraft" and "voodoo," he suggested that robots and computer systems could ultimately do 80% of tasks now performed by physicians. Even if robots only could do 20% of what physicians now do, it could make a big dent in the physician shortage. The U.S. is facing a shortage on the order of 90,000 doctors by 2025, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges. As its population ages, the United States may be required to follow the lead of Japan, which is already testing the use of robots to care for elder care. One of the most promising robots is known as Robear (seriously)—the bear-inspired patient care robot pictured above that is strong enough to lift patients from a bed to a wheelchair. Technology for the Paralyzed Appearing in sci-fi classics including Aliens, powered exoskeletons have been around in the real world since the 1960s, when GE and the U.S. military created a suit that could amplify its wearer's strength by a factor of 25. But in the past decade or so, powered exoskeletons have begun to catch on in medicine for their use to help paralyzed patients walk and in physical therapy. One of the most recent applications of the technology was its use in conjunction with spinal cord stimulation therapy to help paralyzed patients relearn to walk voluntarily. Designer Babies à la Gattaca? In the 1997 film Gattaca, a geneticist tried to convince a father-to-be of the benefits of altering his child's genetic makeup: "We want to give your child the best possible start. Believe me, we have enough imperfection built in already," he said. "Your child doesn't need any more additional burdens. Keep in mind, this child is still you. Simply, the best, of you. You could conceive naturally a thousand times and never get such a result." The film serves as a warning of what a world characterized by rampant genetic discrimination might look like. But the prospect of creating designer babies is becoming more likely with each passing year thanks to rapid progress in genetics, raising the question of how much genetic manipulation of an embryo's DNA is acceptable? A group of scientists recently argued that modifying an embryo's DNA is "essential," according to a BBC report, explaining that it will soon be possible to modify embryos to correct genetic- based diseases or even reduce life-long risks of contracting diseases like cancer. Wrist-Worn Medical Computers Apple CEO Tim Cook has admitted that the Apple Watch was partly inspired by Dick Tracy's wrist- worn computer. While the success of the first-gen Apple Watch and, indeed, smartwatches at large, remains to be proven, the devices could potentially provide a powerful means of tracking chronic conditions and monitoring elderly patients. In a recent Qmed interview, App Association executive director Morgan Reed envisions a near future when smartphones can be bundled with an array of health sensors. "One of those could be a glucose monitor, another could be blood pressure, and another could track biomarkers to gauge medication adherence. And of course it can track your geo location, and it allows for geofencing," he says. SPECIAL FEATURE: ENGINEERING INSIGHT 5 Sci-Fi Technologies Coming to Medical Devices Science fiction authors have an uncanny knack for helping to predict the future of technology. Brian Buntz

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