Medical Marvels


Written by Charlie Cole
08 Sunday 08th July 2012

Diagnostic Contact Lenses

Millions of diabetes sufferers have to endure endless skin prick tests to check their blood sugar levels. Whilst there have been advances in this field, with skin patches and body contact pads providing the service, the University of Akron team have come up with the coolest, weirdest way to check your glucose levels. A diagnostic contact lens has been created which, much like a pH strip, changes from green to red when your blood sugar level dips. There’s no discomfort and the lenses can stay in all day, fluctuating with your blood sugar, giving you an indication of your level from morning till night. The wearer will only be able to detect the change when looking in a mirror, so the team is also working on an app to diagnose you by snapping the colour of your eye.

Artificial Heart Transplant

The first total artificial heart implant in America was performed on a 66-year-old retired high school teacher and track and field coach from Holbrook, New England. The patient was diagnosed last year with a rapidly deteriorating condition that would have caused total heart failure. Stuck on the never ending transplant list, his doctors and surgeons opted for the risky and completely new technique of implanting an entirely artificial heart whilst he waits for its human counterpart. The doctors had not previously announced the decision to undertake such an immense step in modern medicine, as the risk of complications was too high. Upon being asked why he agreed to such an extreme surgery, the patient, Mr Carelli, told the press “It’s not a difficult choice when you want to live”.

Bone Healing injection

Yes it sounds like something that Doctor EMH from Star Trek would use, but this bone healing injection is making waves across the medical world. Complex fractures create a huge risk of permanent immobilisation and even amputation in some cases, as resetting such intricate breakages takes months, and the risk of incorrect healing can leave patients permanently damaged. These bone-healing injections (used in conjunction with growth stimulating putty) cut healing time by up to 70%, allowing doctors to quickly assess how much damage is done, and allow patients to be back on their feet in no time.

Stem Cell Spray Gun

This is quite possibly the most ridiculous name around for a piece of medical equipment. The stem cell spray gun does exactly what it says on the tin. It sprays stem cells at you. This creation is ideal for burn victims with skin trauma, who are susceptible to infection and illness though extended wound exposure. Unlike the stem cells that caused so much controversy in the past, these miracle cures are not harvested from in-utero foetuses or new born babies, they are in fact taken from the patients themselves. The cells are lightly sprayed over the damaged skin and within a matter of days the tissue is on its way to making a full recovery.

Artificial External Womb

Now this is one medical marvel that has split the world in two. Scientists have been working for decades on artificial reproduction, and so far have given hope to many women in the form of IVF, clinical surrogacy and controlled pregnancy. Well now medical advancements have reached levels that we could only have dreamt of a year or two ago. Yosinori Kuwabara and his colleagues, working in a small research laboratory at Juntendou University in Tokyo have created the first fully operational artificial external womb. The team has managed to grow a foetus within the machine for 14 days, successfully providing it with the exact conditions and nutrients found in a human uterus. The only reason the foetus grew for no longer than 14 days was because of legal restraints, preventing artificial human life from developing beyond this point. From data gathered in the past year, the team has predicted that they could grow a baby to three months without much more advancement in their technology. Although this breakthrough truly is a marvel, an oddly Matrix-like image of a foetus farm springs to mind when thinking of all those babies in plastic tanks...

Micromasonry (Biological Lego)

‘Like building a Lego castle with super-tiny blocks’. Is there any part of science that sounds cooler than that? For years scientists have tried to grow artificial organs with no avail. The cells can be replicated, but the problem lies in trying to recreate the 3D structure of an organ. Now scientists have moved around the problem by encapsulating the cells in polymer cubes. They coat the cells in polyethylene glycol (PEG), a liquid polymer that turns to a gel when illuminated. By coating and illuminating layer upon layer of cells, they can build a series of bricks that interlock and will eventually form whatever shape it is that they wish to create. The possibilities are endless if this technique is mastered and developed. Any organ could be created, completely eliminating the highly dangerous and painful procedure of the transplant waiting list. 

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