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9 Healthcare Innovations That Changed the Medical Field in 2018
Year after year, researchers and scientists develop and refine technology in ways that allow modern medicine access to new realms, opening the door for solutions once deemed impossible. In 2018, groundbreaking advancements took place in the fields of gene editing, diet tracking, and wearable sensors, setting the stage for a host of developments in the coming year. Here are nine of the best healthcare innovations of 2018 to continue watching in 2019.
9 Healthcare Innovations 2018
- DNA/Gene Editing to Eliminate Disease
- NAD+ Compound/Anti-aging Supplements
- Voice Analysis to Detect Physical and Mental Disease
- Medicinal Contact Lenses
- Greater Access to Vaccines
- Cancer Vaccine Trials
- Tooth Sensors for Diet Tracking
- Responsive Synthetic Skin for Humans
1 – DNA/gene editing to eliminate a disease
Toward the end of 2017, DNA editing biotech made headlines when a 44-year old man with Hunter syndrome was injected with gene editing compounds to cure him of his debilitating disease. While still in very early stages of clinical trials, gene editing technology continues to break down barriers between which disease or disability is pharmaceutically managed and which is capable of being completely written out of a human’s DNA. While this potential for at-will gene editing carries serious ethical concerns which are likely to be heavily debated in the years to come, the potential for a reduction in disabling conditions through the addition or removal of small sections of DNA would be a nearly unmeasurable advancement for individuals at risk for HIV, HPV and a host of other lifelong diseases.
2 – NAD+ compound/anti-aging supplements
Referred to by many scientists as “the golden nucleotide,” NAD+ is a naturally occurring molecule found in all living cells that work to regulate cellular aging and keep the body functioning properly. As we age, our levels of NAD+ go into decline, causing our cells to diminish and age. Basis, an NAD+ supplement created and distributed by Elysium, is now available for purchase as an anti-aging option after laboratory tests showed a significant reduction in cellular aging properties in mice treated with NAD+.
3 – Voice analysis to detect physical and mental disease
Researchers have long suspected that the inflection and tone of a person’s voice holds a direct correlation to the state of their physical and mental health, specifically as it applies to concussions and mood disorders. Emerging research from MIT now shows that biomarkers can distinguish a higher likelihood for heart disease and PTSD in combat veterans, with developments ongoing.
4 – Medicinal contact lenses
Not only have recent advancements in ocular health yielded technology that allows wearers of contact lenses to receive a dose of medicine for the treatment of glaucoma and chronic dry-eye; emerging technology has found a way to integrate sensors into contacts to track an individual’s stress level, blood sugar, and even heart rate. Products could be available to the public in as little as five years.
5 – Telehealth/telemedicine
With the rise of digital media and the streamlined way social platforms have combined audio and video capability, physicians can now hold house calls from anywhere in the world. Thanks to the rise of telemedicine, licensed physicians can utilize platforms like Clairvista and E-visit to connect with patients anywhere, anytime.
6 – Greater access to vaccines
Transportation and access to vaccines saw a steady rise in 2018, with one notable advancement occurring in the conception of the flu patch, a convenient and user-friendly way to administer the flu vaccine without the insertion and associated anxiety of a traditional needle. Formulated with an array of non-threatening microneedles that dissolve when they meet the skin, the patch vaccine model could be available for distribution as early as five years from now.
7 – Cancer vaccine trials
In February of 2018, researchers at Stanford University announced they would begin the first round of human trails with a newly developed cancer vaccine. The immune-stimulating injections were forecasted to prevent the build-up of metastases and eliminate all traces of cancer in the body. In laboratory studies prior to human trials, 90 mice were implanted with tumors and then administered the test injections directly into the tumor site. Out of the 90 mice tested, 87 showed a complete reduction in tumors, with the remaining mice showing signs of tumor reduction and overall improvement after a second injection. Studies are ongoing.
8 – Tooth sensors for diet tracking
Gone are the days of mouthguards and bulky, uncomfortable wiring in an attempt to monitor nutritional intake. In mid-2018, the Tufts School of Engineering unveiled a wearable sensor just a modest two millimeters in width and length, designed to attach to the surface of the human tooth and provide radiofrequency feedback as to the eating habits of the wearer.
9 – Responsive synthetic skin for humans
A Stanford chemical engineer named Zhenan Bao has been working for decades to develop of network of skin cells that simulate the adaptability and sensory response of human skin. In mid-2018, her development of an artificial nerve circuit showed evidence of touch sensitivity and reflexiveness that is characteristic of human skin. As developments continue, we can expect to see advancements in the treatment of skin disorders, burns, and even the overlaying of skin on prosthetics for a more lifelike answer to amputations and limb loss.
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