Advances in medical technology have played a major role in increasing people’s average life expectancy.
Although a lot of new technology is costly to develop and run, a study by Frank R. Lichtenberg published in 2009 by the US’s National Bureau of Economic Research, concluded that life expectancy increased more rapidly in states that made the most use out of top medical imaging technologies. And surprisingly, those states did not experience larger increases in medical expenditure per capita. So while new diagnostic technology may be more costly than than its older counterparts, it’s use is likely reducing the need for even more expensive medical treatment in the long-run.
When looking at how modern machines are changing medicine, let’s go beyond technologies that merely allow doctors to see inside our bodies. What about something that could serve as working representations of our individual bodies, allowing health care providers to test medical treatments on our (sort of) virtual clones? A recent article in The Telegraph examines the notion of human doppelgangers for all….
The article takes us back to the work of Denis Noble and his colleagues at Oxford who created a working computer model of the human heart back in 1960. Doctors are now able to use this model to test different types of treatments for all sorts of cardiac malfunction, and other advances of this nature have even given researchers new insight into blood diseases like Sickle-cell.
Naturally, it would only be a matter of time until researchers would attempt to tackle the most complex organ in the human body which is why there’s big money out there for projects aiming to map the brain. In Europe, the Human Brain Project has officially been awarded 1 billion euros to work on modelling the brain over the next 10 years. This is of course no small challenge, and the European team won’t be attempting to go it alone. They’re calling for the support of researchers around the globe in the hopes of founding an international centre for brain research much like CERN (The European Centre for Nuclear Research). The US has shown a similar commitment to this type of research through their BRAIN Initiative (Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies) and with large-scale projects like this underway, experts believe it won’t be long until it will be possible to simulate a full virtual human body allowing doctors to test surgeries and new drugs on a simulated patient made just for you.
If you’re interested in this, you may also want to check out an article By the BBC: Digital Medicine: Machines for Living