10 Medical Advances that Sound Like Science Fiction


Science fiction has often inspired real-world scientists. From cell phones to submarines, robots to rockets, many of our greatest inventions showed up first in sci-fi. Medicine is just one of the fields that has been greatly influenced by science fiction literature. We’re not saying we’re all going to be immortal cyborgs anytime soon, but medicine’s definitely starting to look more futuristic. Case in point …

10. Healing Bio-Foam


Getting shot hurts a lot. And it looks like it hurts a lot. But not every injury is so visible. In fact, a large percentage of preventable battlefield deaths come from internal wounds that can’t be seen.

Arsenal Medicine, working for the Department of Defense, has developed a new way of treating internal wounds quickly. If you’re a Halo fan, you’ve probably heard of it before. Like the biofoam used by the game’s soldiers, this real-life version is designed to create pressure in an injured abdominal. By pressing down on the wounds, it substantially reduces blood loss. It’s still in the prototype stage, but it looks promising so far. Early tests show the foam raising the three-hour survival rate for the injuries it treats from only 8% to 72%. We can only hope that, like in the game, they’re going to place them everywhere for us to pick up for free.

9. Virtual Reality Training


Doctors spend years of training in both medical school and internships, but they are still capable of making mistakes, especially when they haven’t tried a specific procedure before. One of the times they do it has to be the first, but no one wants to be a doctor’s first. In response to this, scientists have developed virtual reality tools that allow a doctor to actually practice procedures consequence-free. This way, they can detect most potential problems beforehand.

Results show that doctors that use the tool perform much better than those who don’t. Tests show that virtual reality-trained doctors were six times less likely to make a mistake during a gallbladder dissection. They also performed the procedure 29% faster. So, if you want to be a better doctor, you need to start playing some video games. Just make sure they’re about medicine.

8. The Tooth Patch


Now, before the rise of dentistry, when your teeth would rot, they fell out and that was the end of that. No more teeth. Then we developed preventative measures and eventually dentures. But dentures are a poor imitation of real teeth. What if you could simply put a thin coat of film on that could not only protect, but even repair your teeth? Well, researchers in Japan have developed something that could work. The tooth patch is a super-flexible material made from hydroxyapatite, the main mineral in tooth enamel.

It’s still in the prototype stage now, but should be available commercially within a couple of years. As of now it can only protect and repair your teeth, but it is possible to make a version that would also help to whiten them. So, we guess that means you can say goodbye to brushing and flossing.

Not really. TopTenz does not endorse the lack of flushing or brushing. Please continue to do both.

7. Healing Gel


In Star Wars, Luke Skywalker was submerged in a giant container of a gel called Bacta, in order to heal his wounds. This synthetic chemical is now fast becoming reality, only instead of the Star Wars method, it is merely put onto the area of the wound. This toothpaste-looking stuff, called Nexagon, was developed by researchers at the University College of London and works by actually reducing protein production, which allows cells to move faster in order to heal the wound. No word yet on whether or not it increases your midichlorian count.

6. Ultrasound to Heal Internal Injuries


Star Trek fans might recall the ability of space doctors to heal easily by pointing a machine at people with injuries. Unfortunately, it isn’t that easy in real life, though it may soon become so. Scientists, engineers, and doctors have been working together to adapt ultrasounds to heal internal injuries and to stop internal bleeding.

Pretty soon, going to the doctor will feel just like stepping on the Starship Enterprise. There are already portable X-rays that are very similar to the tricorders of Star Trek. Experiments have shown ultrasound therapy is effective at healing lung punctures. It can also heal ruptured blood vessels. This, along with the DARPA foam mentioned earlier, is especially helpful because it gets rid of the need for surgery.

5. Mind-Controlled Wheelchair


Wheelchairs generally move one of three ways: you roll yourself, someone pushes you, or you have a stick you push that activates a motor that turns the wheel. But now researchers have developed a way for people to control the movement of their wheelchair with their mind. It can understand simple commands like “forward” or “go left” and will then go that way as long as it means it won’t hit anything. It can also move towards some specific objects that the driver wants to go to.

You might think that it would get old fast to constantly have to mentally order around your chair. The chair’s designers clearly thought so, equipping their prototype with two webcams and a function called “shared control” that allows it to take over low-level tasks. So, drivers only have to think a command once, and then only need to intervene if they need to change something.

4. Growing Skin


Most of the time, a wound will simply fix itself automatically. But sometimes, for whatever reason, it just doesn’t. In the past, the usual solution to this was amputation. For some reason, people didn’t think that was good enough. So, in the last few years, researchers have begun to develop new technology that allows doctors to create human skin in labs. Biotech companies extract collagen from donated skin that they can then use to heal a wound.

One of the coolest things about it is that they can take tiny amounts of real skin, and then use it to grow tons of artificial skin. As Dr. James Mcguire of Temple University put it, “In some cases, we can get four football fields of skin out of one baby foreskin.”

3. A Pill That Sees Inside You


A pill designed in Japan can literally see inside your body. This tiny mechanism is swallowed, and then later spins inside your intestine, creating a video for doctors to look at in order to find problems. After it goes down the esophagus and through the intestines, the pills camera takes up to 870,000 images, or 30 per second. It transmits these images to a SD card kept in a vest worn by the patient. Over time, these images are all combined and turned into a video. The doctors can then simply take the card, put it into a computer, and watch the video.

During this whole process, the patient apparently feels nothing.  Most people will probably find this preferable to the previous method of sticking a long pole with a camera on it directly inside.

2. 3-D Color X-Ray


Scientist at the University of Manchester in Britain have developed a new X-ray with both 3D and color capabilities, allowing them to get better results easier than ever before. We can now look inside someone, move around it like a 3D model, and see all the different shades and colors. It’s just like when Dorothy first entered the land of Oz, and the world was in full color for the first time.

In addition, a doctor’s office is not the only place this upgrade will make things easier. It could also improve security screening at airports, industrial inspection, and geophysical exploration.

1. Automatic Sperm Extractor


A device in China has has been developed to help infertility patients. The automatic sperm extractor is exactly what it sounds like. You stick your baby maker in this terrifying machine, and it sucks the life juice out of you. That is literally the most normal way we could think of to phrase that.

Luckily, though, it’s accommodating. It can be adjusted for different heights, and speed and temperature are also controllable. It can be used by men who have fertility issues and thus can’t donate sperm normally. So, we’ve finally done it. Sex with robots is now a reality. Soon there will be cyborg children running around everywhere.

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