On the original Star Trek, Dr. McCoy (a.k.a. “Bones”) carried a sensory device called a tricorder to record and relay medical information. Soon, thanks to Qualcomm’s $10 million XPrize competition, that neat fictional gadget could become a health care reality.
Over the last five years, teams from the U.S., the U.K., Canada, India, and Taiwan have competed to develop their own functional tricorders—portable tools able to diagnose health conditions and take real-time vital signs like blood pressure. The winning design will be announced in early 2017, with the hope that, eventually, individuals will be able to use it at home, “to assess and manage their health independent of a hospital or doctor’s office.” Live long and prosper, indeed.
2. (CAR) T-cell Immunotherapies
There have been such tremendous advancements in treatments for blood cancers like leukemia and lymphoma, that the five-year survival rate for children with Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) is now over 85 percent. And starting in 2017, those kinds of numbers may leap even higher.
For the first time, pending FDA approval, chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy will be made available to “high-end” cancer centers around the country. In this kind of cellular immunotherapy, white blood cells called T-cells are extracted from a patient, treated at a special laboratory, and then returned to the patient to fight cancer cells. Trials on kids with ALL have proven very successful, with high rates of complete remission. The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society notes that studies of CAR T-cell therapy on multiple myeloma,chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), and some types of non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) have also been “very promising,” as well.
3. Augmented Reality
When Pokémon Go burst onto the scene this past July, millions of everyday Americans got their first taste of augmented reality (AR), in which a computer digitally enhances the sights and sounds of real-life environments. While some AR tools have already made inroads into health care—like AccuVein, which maps out patients’ veins for phlebotomists and nurses—the incredible technology will become even more widespread in 2017, as it:
- teaches doctors and medical students how to do certain surgeries, procedures, and dissections
- helps patients envision their own conditions, treatments, surgeries, and recoveries
- maps out the locations of health care providers and life-saving equipment (like defibrillators) for the public in case of emergency
- It’ll be years before they’re a reality, but AR implants for the eyes and ears are coming down the pike, too. Google and Samsung have already filed patents for lens implants intended to monitor glaucoma and deliver medicines.