We’re always developing better, more efficient technology to cure or treat medical conditions. Thanks to the breakthroughs of the past few decades, we’ve been able to increase life expectancies and patient outcomes — across the board.
Already, 2018 is shaping up to be an exciting year for the progression of these medical technologies; there have been dozens of substantial breakthroughs toward the end of 2017, and researchers are pushing for even further development this year.
So what are the most important breakthroughs to watch or learn from in the coming year?
Breakthroughs to Watch:
1. How Cancer Cells Stay Alive. As reported by Rush University, a team of researchers has discovered the mechanism behind certain cancer cells’ ability to stave off death. Essentially, they’ve found that a specific protein-based molecule associated with the body’s immune system is what’s responsible for keeping cancer cells alive for abnormal lengths of time, despite certain types of treatment. In a study involving mice, researchers have shown that neutralizing this molecule, using antibody therapy, can kill some types of cancer cells outright, and shrink prostrate tumors. It’s a promising method of treatment for cancer in the future.
2. Closed-Loop Insulin Delivery. Sometimes referred to as the world’s first artificial pancreas, researchers have tested a hybrid closed-loop insulin delivery system to make type-1 diabetes, along with its symptoms, more manageable for patients. Originally approved by the FDA back in 2016, this device allows glucose monitoring and insulin pump devices to communicate with each other, increasing the level of control over blood glucose and presenting unprecedented stability.
3. Neuromodulation for obstructive sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea affects millions of American adults, but aside from surgery, there aren’t many effective, comfortable treatments for it. Until now, the best option has been a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device, but it’s uncomfortable for many patients. Now, companies are creating an implant that uses direct stimulation to keep airway muscles open during the night. It’s controlled with a remote or patch, acting almost like a pacemaker to synchronize breathing patterns.
4. LDL cholesterol reduction. "Bad" cholesterol, technically known as LDL cholesterol, creates fatty deposits that clog arteries and can directly or indirectly lead to many different cardiovascular conditions. Now, researchers have discovered a specific combination of drugs that can lower LDL levels by as much as 75 percent, which is unprecedented in the medical community. In studies reviewing the effectiveness of this treatment, researchers found a reduced risk of cardiovascular death, myocardial infarction, and stroke by more than 20 percent.
5. Better telemedicine tech. Telemedicine has been on the minds of healthcare executives for years. It’s projected that more than 19 million patients will be using telemedicine tech by the end of 2018, a 19-fold increase over 2013’s figures. Telemedicine refers to any kind of technology that allows for the distant interaction between a doctor and patient.
This kind of care is revolutionary because it allows both doctors and patients to have a more convenient way to communicate; patients, especially those whose mobility is affected by age or a specific condition, no longer have to travel to give or receive updates, and doctors can provide immediate and urgent care — at least to some degree — faster than ever before. It’s no wonder why 90 percent of healthcare executives either have or are in the process of building a telehealth program.
Honorable Mention: Machine Learning
Though not confined to any one application, machine learning will be another technological breakthrough to watch for in 2018. Machine learning is used for a variety of medical applications, including diagnosis, treatment, and long-term care, and it’s becoming a more popular target for investment as well as a more sophisticated technology in its own right.
Look for it to complement and improve other existing technologies, infiltrating the healthcare system on multiple levels to improve quality of care and automating previously exclusively manual functions.
No matter where these outlined technologies go in 2018, we’re bound to have a progressive year in medical capabilities. Keep watch for new developments and be prepared for a few surprises.
Larry Alton is a professional blogger, writer, and researcher. A graduate of Iowa State University, he's now a full-time freelance writer and business consultant. Currently, Larry writes for Entrepreneur.com, Inc.com, and Forbes.com, among others. In addition to journalism, technical writing and in-depth research, he’s also active in his community and spends weekends volunteering with a local non-profit literacy organization and rock climbing. Follow him on Twitter (@LarryAlton3), at LinkedIn.com/in/larryalton, and on his website, LarryAlton.com. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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