Beldar has a post morning the death of Dr. DeBakey, a man who revolutionized surgical treatment of heart problems. In his post Beldar says “I doubt any single physician or scientist is likely to have so phenomenal an impact on medical science in the 21st Century as he did in the 20th.” Which got me thinking: What will be the breakthrough medical technologies of the 21st Century? My thoughts:
- Safe genetic therapy: Gaining the ability to turn off existing genes in a human (including, but not limited to, adult humans), and adding new genes, with the same, or different, regulation as the existing gene (since sometimes it’s the regulation of the gene that’s the problem).
- The “real” “mapping” of the human genome: We currently have a set of DNA sequences of human genomes. But we have no real clue what they mean. Figuring out where the genetic components of height, weight, intelligence, athletic ability, etc. reside, as well as where to find all the genetic diseases, is going to be a big task, and a big help once it’s done.
- Functional medical nanotech: This one will be bigger than anything else, assuming we can do it. Machines in your body to hunt down rips and tears, and repair them. To find the places where plaque is accumulating in your arteries (or in your brain), and remove it. Find early stage cancerous cells, and kill them. Go into your joints, and build more cartilage when your body falls behind, and thus stop arthritis. Go into your bones, and build more bone when your body fails to keep up: no more osteoporosis. Hunt down, destroy, and cause to be excreted “excess” fat cells (goodbye dieting). Examine your food intake, and manufacture any amino acids, or other “vitamins” you need that aren’t merely trace elements, when you need them (goodbye malnutrition, so long as you can get calories).
- Superior medical prosthetics: We’re starting to get there (see the case of the double amputee runner who was told he couldn’t compete in the Olympics because his artificial legs were better for running than real ones. Happily, that decision was reversed), but we have a long way to go. Highly functional artificial ears, and eyes, will end up helping a lot of people.
That’s off the top of my head. What am I missing?
Update; Hmm, how about 5: Personal implants: I’m not sure if this qualifies as groundbreaking medical technology, but I’m certainly looking forward to the day when we have Oath of Fealty level computer impants to connect our brains directly to computers.