What will be the future equivalents of the coronary stent, the insulin pump, the pacemaker—lifesaving or life-transforming medical devices that revolutionized 20th century healthcare? The burgeoning fields of nanotechnology, mechanical-electrical microsystems and biotechnology are set to yield a cornucopia in the next 30 years. A couple of possibilities:
– Streamlined home care, through garments that monitor your vital signs and automatically alert a clinician when something out of the ordinary occurs, or perhaps even a toothbrush that can detect bacteria or blood glucose levels, and transmit the data to your medical record.
– Another emerging field involves engineered organs. Researchers from Harvard and Wake Forest universities have grown new bladders for seven children using their own cells and a special scaffold shaped like a bladder. The engineered bladders were sutured to the patients' original bladders, and then the scaffolds dissolved. The transplants were done in 2004, and the patients are doing well two years later.