Nuances in modern language are beginning to paint a portrait of posthumanist philosophies, being delivered incrementally into reality, through advances in science and the medical industry. In an era when academics debate biological terms, some are beginning to wonder what it will even mean to be ‘human’ decades from now.
In a future with cybernetic implants and artificial embryos, will the terms and spectrums we use today even matter? It’s anyone’s guess, but innovations in medical tech do provoke such questions. In this article, we’re going to examine some of the most innovative tech inventions for health, and the frameworks science and medtech communities are placing for the future.
One major problem of developing bipedal, humanoid prosthetics and robotics is the fact it’s a miracle humans can even stand upright. The biomechanics of human limb movement, particularly how humans walk, have eluded the robotics community for many years. Upright walking is in fact a delicate balancing act, requiring almost conscious adjustments made mid-step. How many humans stumble everyday while walking?
Well, even though bipedal, humanoid robots are quite a ways off, significant ground has been made in the areas of prosthetic limbs, and biomechanical exoskeletons. Tech startups like ABLE have developed robotic lower-body exoskeletons, which can allow people with disabilities such as lower-limb paralysis, to experience walking again.
These exoskeletons also include smart device capabilities, for remote monitoring and adjustments made in parameters for each individual patient. This is important, as the human gait can widely vary by individual, taking into account things like posture and body weight distribution.
Like much of our body, our eyes have long eluded scientific attempts at artificial emulation. The spherical shape of the retina, and how we perceive light and colour spectrums, have always posed a particular challenge to bionic eye implants.
Researchers however have been putting together the puzzle pieces at a time, and have recently made major breakthroughs. By implanting nanowires attached to artificial retinas, researchers conclude that bionic eye implants in human patients could very well be a reality in the next decade.
Other medtech companies have made advances in addressing eye-related issues, such as the link between light absorption and acute migraines. Migraine glasses from Axon Optics, for example, use special tinting designed to block out harsh fluorescent lighting, without darkening your vision as normal sunglasses would.
C02 removal devices
Traditional respirators cannot remove the buildup of carbon dioxide in a patient’s blood, as witnessed in chronic pulmonary diseases. New medtech devices in providing extracorporeal carbon dioxide removal have shown promise in saving lives afflicted by a variety of lung and heart diseases, most notably acute asthma and life-threatening asthma attacks.
Medtech startups utilized AI machine learning to create a hybrid treatment approach, where a patient’s blood can be drawn through tiny catheters placed by nursing staff. These procedures are less invasive than existing techniques to treat acute lung failure, and the technology can be utilized outside of intensive care units for treating patients with a variety of diseases, such as COPD and cystic fibrosis.
Tiny, cell-like robots floating around in your bloodstream, attacking diseased cells and impurities? It’s not a science fiction movie, it’s the very real advances in nanomedicine technology the past several years. While a lot of funding has been poured into the design and laboratory experimentation of nanobots, the medtech industry is finally ready to start putting the research into public clinical trials with humans.
Companies like CytImmune Sciences, which lead the research in cancer nanomedicines, have completed Phase I trials in using nanoparticles for delivering treatment payloads to tumors. Biopharmaceutical companies like BlueWillow Biologics have also developed nanotech aimed at fighting viruses and bacteria.
With nanotechnology, one of the hurdles the medtech industry faces is public opinion and questions of ethics. There exists a significant portion of the population that will need convincing to accept tiny robots out of science fiction movies into their bodies, in an era where 5G radio signals are somehow blamed for spreading COVID-19.
“The holy grail of developmental biology is to understand how a single cell, a fertilized egg, can make all of the specific cell types in the human body and grow into 40 trillion cells. Since the beginning of time, researchers have been trying to develop ways to answer this question.” – Dr. Tesar, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine.
In layman’s terms, they’ve successfully grown mice embryos in artificial wombs, with fertilized eggs taken from the oviducts of female mice immediately after fertilization. There still exists a mammalian womb to the artificial womb pipeline, but they’ve narrowed it down to mere moments after fertilization.
Along with studies like genome research, does this forebode a future like in The Matrix, where human fetuses are grown like cornfields? Probably not. Most certainly not in our lifetime. But it does show promise for understanding mammalian birth, and creating new opportunities for women unable to bear children due to medical reasons.
Biology, physiology, and postmodern philosophy are incredibly hot topics in the mainstream today, and much of the discourse relies on ideological narratives.
No matter the various conflicting ideologies behind the public discourse, however, it is certain that the advances in medtech today are narrowing the gap between science fiction and reality closer than ever before.