Technology – the good, the bad, and the ugly. I’m a huge proponent of science and technology as long as it doesn’t harm and benefits society. Keep in mind, this blog is looking at technology from a medical perspective and not as a whole.
Technology has come a long way since I was born. We went from dial-up internet and floppy disks to WI-FI and high-speed internet, drives the size of your pinky, and quantum computing power.
But what about advancements in medical, travel, or space? It seems like there hasn’t been much progress there. We’re still driving around gas cars, no cure for blindness, and people are still dying with no readily available cures for the diseases we’ve been suffering with for decades. Even in space, it seems like we haven’t done much but sent rovers here and there (IF that’s even true).
What happened that we are able to develop quantum computers and we still can’t find the cure for cancer, with those millions and millions of dollars being pumped into cancer foundations every year? Something is wrong here.
And why does it seem like we went completely backward in regard to farming, food, and medicine? The technological advancements in those areas have done more harm than good.
We went from organic, regenerative farming and herbal medicine to genetically modified frankenfood and chemical cocktail pills. Instead of using science to regenerate and improve our soils, we are purposefully poisoning our soil and the plants we consume with Monsanto products like Roundup, depleting the soil of nutrients, killing the soil microbiome contributing to climate change and making us sicker by consuming the waste food produced by this system.
And instead of medicine improving our lives, it seems to be breeding disease. Pharmaceuticals create a neverending domino effect of disease in the body.
There is evidence for technology and medical advancements saving/improving lives but it seems the technology has moved very slowly in this sector. Why is that? To delve into this further we need to really look at the top medical advancements today in detail and accessibility to these advancements.
I researched the top 9 new medical technologies as of 2/27/2019 and here is what I found:
- Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats (CRISPR) Cas9 technology. This is gene-editing technology that has the potential for positive impacts, but also negative. It is an “RNA-guided gene-editing platform that makes use of a bacterially-derived protein (Cas9) and a synthetic guide RNA to introduce a double-strand break at a specific location within the genome.” – Gris Anik. What is our obsession with gene editing? We already genetically modify our food and crops (which is having dangerous impacts on our health and is already altering our genetic makeup for the worse), but now we want to genetically modify humans? While this technology has a huge benefit in eliminating genetic diseases, are we using it for that purpose? According to an article that was written on April 16, 2019, CRISPR technology has indeed moved out of the labs and into the clinics as human gene editing trials are now underway. You can read more about that Here. Nothing I could find stated that this technology was readily available/accessible today (10/28/2019) so if you find something I couldn’t, please comment below! You can bet the wealthy and the elite have access to this technology today.
But this technology has a dark side. There’s the ethical decision of making ‘designer babies’ and human-animal chimera from this technology. And they are already doing this. See NY Times Article and Independent.co.uk. This is frightening and has major ethical concerns.
And according to the following video, we may now be able to “wipe out entire species at a whim” and “anyone can buy some for a few hundred bucks.” This is a very scary thought if this lands in the hands of a psychopath or narcissist and we all know we have plenty of those in this world.
Note that he also says we can wipe out entire diseases and illnesses today with this technology. It’ll be interesting to see if we actually use this for that.
2. Telehealth. This is digitally-led healthcare services via a mobile app to allow patients to speak to medical professionals at a whim. The global telemedicine market is expected to be worth $113.1 billion by 2025 according to Proclinical. This to me is not really an ‘advancement’ in medical technology so much as an ‘advancement’ in medical consumerism. We all know that in keeping up with digital services such as banking, shopping, etc. that the healthcare industry would eventually need to fall in line as consumers want everything at their fingerprints and convenience is a commodity. While there are some benefits in telehealth and telemedicine, there’s a whole lot of cons that come with this and people need to take into consideration. Personally, I’d opt for a functional holistic doctor. I did find a really good article on the pros and cons Here. The following video also lists the top 5 problems with telemedicine.
3. Virtual Reality. According to an article written by the Virtual Reality Society, “Virtual reality is used in many areas of healthcare which range from diagnosis, treatment, e.g. surgery, rehab, and counseling. It is also used to train the next generation of doctors, paramedics, and other medical personnel and has shown a range of benefits from doing so.” It’s even being used to treat psychological disorders such as phobias and traumas and offer pain relief according to an article and studies written by the American Journal of Translational Research. I could not locate any disadvantages of this technology in the medical field so if you know of any, please leave a comment below.
4. Precision Medicine. This is “medical care designed to optimize efficiency or therapeutic benefit for particular groups of patients, especially by using genetic or molecular profiling.” So what’s the difference between precision and personalized medicine? According to Genetics Home Reference, “personalized medicine” is an older term with a meaning similar to “precision medicine.” However, there was a concern that the word “personalized” could be misinterpreted to imply that treatments and preventions are being developed uniquely for each individual; in precision medicine, the focus is on identifying which approaches will be effective for which patients based on genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors. Pharmacogenomics is a part of precision medicine. Pharmacogenomics is the study of how genes affect a person’s response to particular drugs. This relatively new field combines pharmacology (the science of drugs) and genomics (the study of genes and their functions) to develop effective, safe medications and doses that are tailored to variations in a person’s genes. ” Precision medicine is exactly what functional holistic doctors do (with the exception of Pharmacogenomics) and which is why I prefer them over your traditional doctor. Functional doctors look at an individual’s DNA methylation prior to prescribing treatment. Unlike a traditional doctor who prescribes pills, a functional doctor will want you off your pills and will prescribe lifestyle changes to get you there. By looking at your DNA methylation a functional doctor will offer various lifestyle changes including switching to organic food and help you to incorporate the appropriate vitamins/minerals, due to how your body methylates, to provide healing.
5. Health Wearables. This includes those wireless devices such as the FitBit and Apple Watch. And while these do help people to be more mindful of their daily activity, is this really helping people to stay active? According to an article written by Vox, “As this study of behavior change and wearables found, the “dirty secret” about these devices is that they “fail to drive long-term sustained engagement for a majority of users.” After a few months, the novelty wears off, the excitement wanes, and people are back to their old ways — if they ever changed them, to begin with. Those who use the devices religiously over the long term tend to be health-focused already. Wearables are just another tool in their already well-stacked fitness arsenal. ” Hmmm. So, it begs the question as to whether or not this is really an advancement or benefit in technology or if it’s just another gadget. It seems to me that only you can motivate you to be more active. I’ve never owned a health wearable nor do I have a desire to because I understand that I am responsible for my health and take steps to make sure I stay active and fit. If you think you ‘need’ something like this then it’s all in your head. A huge overlooked danger and safety hazard of health wearables is the EMFs that sit that close to your body for hours. Studies show prolonged exposure by an EMF emitting device that close to your skin increases your chances of getting cancer. EMFs are considered a carcinogen and prolonged use can cause serious long-term health problems. Any research to support these claims? According to vesttech.com, “Literature focused on informing users of the dangers of wireless wearable devices is available from numerous credible institutions.
In one example, researchers from the National Toxicology Program (NTP), a federal interagency group under the National Institutes of Health, conducted experiments on mice that showed how the subjects exposed to electromagnetic radiation could be more susceptible to cancer.
In another study, the World Health Organization (WHO) mentions cell phones as “possibly carcinogenic.” The study also implies that increased proximity to the devices increases the level of radiation exposure. This particular finding makes wearables even more worrying, given that they are specifically designed to be worn constantly near the body.
Research conducted by a team of European researchers led by Dr. Lennart Hardell who is a professor of oncology and cancer epidemiology at a University Hospital in Sweden also notes potential dangers. In his study, he found that talking on mobile phones or even cordless devices for extended periods could raise the risk of brain cancer, up to three times.
The popularity of smartphones as well as wearable devices and the risks it poses has also been the subject of media scrutiny, especially as it pertains to how it may affect children. “Children should limit how much time they spend talking on a cellphone, doctors say. And if they have a wearable device, they should take it off at night so it does not end up under their pillow, near their brain. Doctors also warn that women who are pregnant should be extra careful with all of these technologies,” writes the New York Times.“
So, in light of the studies and dangers of EMFs, you might want to think twice before purchasing a health wearable. It seems they cause more harm than good.
6. Artificial Organs and 3D Printing. With the breakthrough of 3D printing, came an emerging technology in the medical field called bio-printing. This technology seems promising as it can replicate tissues regenerating joints, burns, and ligaments and those who are on a waiting list for organs can readily receive one. This technology also allows for the 3D printing of biomaterials to make artificial organs and then develop the organ from lab-cultured cells. However, I still know people on those waiting lists…. so are artificial organs readily available to the public? According to mypeopletimes.com, “Despite Remarkable Advances In Transplantation And Artificial Organs, The High Cost Of The Artificial Organs Including Engineered Devices And Tissues Is Likely To Restrain The Growth Of Artificial Organs. The Cost Of Artificial Organs Include The Cost Of Device, Surgical Procedure, And Continue Medical Surveillance.” So it would seem if you have the money for it, you are able to get an artificial organ.
Do these organs reject as oftentimes human organ transplants do? Artificial organs are created by taking the stem cells of the same person and of the same organ which has been shown to reduce the possibility of rejection significantly. A major concern is the possible presence of the disease in the base tissue which is used to create the organ. Sometimes, even a foreign body tissue is used to regenerate or reconstruct the organ. In such cases, there is a possibility that the tissue is already infected by other diseases. The entire cost of growing and transplanting an artificial organ is prohibitive and limits the scope of its application to the general public.
Everything I found on this subject indicates that artificial organs are today being created as a substitute organ (not permanent) for those waiting for an organ so they can gain some relief. It does appear the goal is to have permanent artificial organs and according to iflscience.com, it appears artificial kidney transplants will be the most promising and expected in 2020. Vanderbilt researchers have “just been given $6 million (£4 million) to play with, and said… at the American Society of Nephrology Kidney Week that human trials within this decade are on the agenda. But they’re not the only ones hoping to get this far. Other groups are working on 3D printed replacements, while some are opting for growing them using stem cells.”
7. Wireless Brain Sensors. This was a new one for me as I was not aware this was a thing. So what is a wireless brain sensor and how is this used in the medical field? This technology was first introduced in 2016 so it’s been around for some time. It is a sensor that “can monitor intracranial pressure and temperature and then be absorbed by the body making surgery to remove it unnecessary.” – futurity.org. But why would anyone want to put this in their brain? According to futurity.org, “Such implants could potentially be used to monitor patients with traumatic brain injuries. Further, scientists believe they can build similar absorbable sensors to monitor activity in organ systems in other parts of the body.” The biggest hurdle according to this article is that these implants can trigger an immune response in the patient creating issues. There’s still an issue of EMFs. As a wireless device, this sensor is emitting EMFs and being that close to the brain I can only imagine the brain damage it is causing. And what about the material of the sensor that gets reabsorbed into the body? Is this safe? According to engineer.com, “The sensors consist of polylactic-co-glycolic acid (PLGA) and silicone and are capable of transmitting accurate pressure and temperature readings, as well as other information. PLGA is a copolymer that is both biodegradable and biocompatible. It will dissolve in the body by means of hydrolysis, reducing the sensor materials to lactic acid and glycolic acid. These two acids are natural by-products of the body’s metabolic pathway. Electrical insulation of the sensor is achieved with a combination of silicone, and a polymer of silicon, oxygen, carbon, and hydrogen. Testing the dissolubility began with saline baths in research labs, and later moved on to testing in laboratory rat brains. In the saline bath, the sensors dissolved after a few days. In the rat brains, the team confirmed the accuracy of information being collected.” So it would seem this device is safely absorbed by the human body, but I would like to understand the long-term implications of the absorption. In my research, I couldn’t locate any articles or studies done on this. It appears this technology is advancing rapidly though and will be more readily available to the public in the next few years.
8. Robotic Surgery. “Currently, robotics allows for more precise surgery – for example, ‘gearing’ the movements of the surgeons so that moving a tool 1cm results in a 1mm movement – or reducing tremors, or holding things in place that would be impossible to hold or manipulate by hand.” – Anna Sayburn. The fear is that one-day robotic surgery and the AI behind it will eventually replace the need for an actual physician. While this might be a concern in the distant future, I don’t believe it’ll happen anytime soon. Physicians usually operate the robotic arms, etc. to perform the surgery so they are still needed in that capacity, but it will reduce the need for other personnel. According to health.howstuffworks.com, “In today’s operating rooms, you’ll find two or three surgeons, an anesthesiologist, and several nurses, all needed for even the simplest of surgeries. Most surgeries require nearly a dozen people in the room. As with all automation, surgical robots will eventually eliminate the need for some personnel. Taking a glimpse into the future, surgery may require only one surgeon, an anesthesiologist and one or two nurses. In this nearly empty operating room, the doctor sits at a computer console, either in or outside the operating room, using the surgical robot to accomplish what it once took a crowd of people to perform.” While this will eliminate some jobs in the surgery room, I see a huge benefit for the patient in this as it should help eliminate some cost with the decreased personnel and should make it so the stay/recovery is shorter. The precisions are finite so less scarring and pain and less room for human error.
9. Smart Inhalers. “To help asthma sufferers to better manage their condition, Bluetooth-enabled smart inhalers have been developed. A small device is attached to the inhaler which records the date and time of each dose and whether it was correctly administered. This data is then sent to the patients’ smartphones so they can keep track of and control their condition. Clinical trials showed that using the smart inhaler device used less reliever medicine and had more reliever-free days.” – Proclinical. Again, I am wary of any device that is wireless just because the EMFs created by these devices negates the positive effects of the device. Unlike the health wearables and the brain sensor, however, this isn’t attached to the human body for a prolonged period of time. There was a study done on the pros and cons of smart inhalers by the BMJ Open Respiratory Research Journal. In this study, it was identified that the top pros of smart inhalers include:
- Better asthma control and improved quality of life.
- Aiding discussions between clinicians and patients.
- Patients’ awareness of monitoring may improve their compliance.
- Increased patient involvement and motivation for treating their condition.
- More informed decision-making (based on real, not reported usage) for clinicians.
And the top cons?
- Evidence of the effectiveness of electronic monitoring devices is not known.
- Patients may not like being watched by “big brother” via the internet-based monitoring component.
- A smart inhaler could interfere with a patient’s usual inhalation technique or be incompatible with some spacers.
- Products lacked a definition for whose responsibility it would be to download, process and interpret the data.
- An electronic monitoring device may be required for more than one inhaler per patient.
- Accuracy and reliability of the device, as well as potential technical issues, are not known.
The pros seem to outweigh the cons in my opinion, other than the accuracy and reliability of the device is not well known. This could create issues where the patient may be receiving too much or too little medicine which is a major concern.
But it also appears with the latter study mentioned that the issue may be with human error than the actual device.
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In conclusion, we have come a long way in medical advancements, whether it’s well known or seen to the general public or not. I think we still have a ways to go to make a lot of this more accessible to the public and not just to the wealthy.
I’m just not sure that Big Pharma would allow medical technology to eliminate diseases for the masses as this would eliminate their revenue stream so it’ll be curious to see if some of this even reaches the general public. Pharmaceuticals is a huge money-making industry and we all know the love of money and greed is what drives those in power. We can hope though.
And as far as we’ve come in technology, this list is kind of depressing. I’m not impressed. We should be a lot farther than we are.
We should be utilizing Tesla’s technology for electricity, riding around in flying cars, healing diseases, and curing the blind and deaf. We shouldn’t be getting sicker, but studies show we are. And this has a lot to do with our environment and to my earlier point, the technological advancements in agriculture, which have been shown to be detrimental to our health.
We should be functioning better, healthier, stronger – mind, body, and spirit. But again, some of this seems to be driven by money. And out of all the major medical advancements I listed, CRISPR Cas9 technology is the most worrisome. This has the potential for good, but also the potential for disaster if not used wisely and in the wrong hands.
What do you think of our medical accomplishments thus far? Leave a comment below!
- Proclinal. Top 10 new medical technologies of 2019. Monique Ellis.
- Plastics Today. The 2016 breakthroughs in medical plastics . . . so far. Norbert Sparrow
- NBC News. These Scientists Have a Plan To Cheat Death. Will It Work? Bahar Gholipour
- MedicalXpress. Why are people still dying from Legionnaires’ disease? Brian Labus
- Gris Anik. The Dangers of CRISPR Technology.
- Institute for Responsible Technology. 10 Reasons to Avoid GMOs.
- BioExplorer. 6 Major Disadvantages of Genetically Modified Foods.
- Digital Journal. Evidence of GMO toxin absorption and toxicity. E. HECTOR CORSI
- NPR.org. First U.S. Patients Treated With CRISPR As Human Gene-Editing Trials Get Underway. Rob Stein
- Vittana. 15 Crucial Telemedicine Pros and Cons.
- Virtual Reality Society. Advantages of virtual reality in medicine.
- NCBI. Application of virtual reality technology in clinical medicine. American Journal of Translational Research
- U.S. National Library of Medicine. What is the difference between precision medicine and personalized medicine? What about pharmacogenomics? Genetics Home Reference
- Vox. Your new Apple Watch isn’t going to make you exercise more. Julia Belluz
- VestTech. What You Don’t Know About Wearable Tech Radiation Exposure.
- Michael R. Neuert, MA, BSME. What are EMFs?
- SheffieldCity. A Review of 3D Bioprinting and its Pros and Cons. Timothy Ballentine
- All People Times. Research Report Prospects The Artificial Organs Market. Shambhu Nath Jha
- iflscience! Artificial Kidneys Could Be In Patients By 2020.
- National Institutes of Health. Wireless, implanted sensor broadens range of brain research.
- Futurity. TINY SENSOR MONITORS BRAIN, THEN MELTS AWAY. JIM DRYDEN-WUSTL
- engineering.com. Dissolvable Wireless Brain Monitoring Sensors. Tanya Trofimencoff
- Neuroscience News. Dissolvable, Wireless Sensors to Monitor the Brain Injury. Jim Dryden
- Health.How Stuff Works. How Robotic Surgery Will Work. KEVIN BONSOR & JONATHAN STRICKLAND
- HealthCentral. Smart Inhalers: Pros and Cons. Jennifer Mitchell Wilson
- The New York Times. Chinese Scientist Claims to Use Crispr to Make First Genetically Edited Babies. Gina Kolata, Sui-Lee Wee and Pam Belluck
- Independent. Human-animal hybrids to be developed in Japan after ban controversially lifted. Colin Drury
- PrimalHerb. ASTHMA | 12 HERBS & MUSHROOMS THAT MAY SUPPORT IT.
- The Journal of Plant Medicines. Cordyceps for Asthma and 7 Other Conditions. CASE ADAMS, PHD
- Medi Mushrooms. Use Reishi Medicinal Mushrooms To Treat Asthma.
- Vox. What is “quantum supremacy” and why is Google’s breakthrough such a big deal? Delia Paunescu