One dull evening about 2 years ago, I stumbled upon a 3 part docuseries on CuriosityStream titled “Pain, Pus and Poison”. The docuseries explores the evolution of medicine from its superstitious mambo-jambo past to our more sophisticated modern medicine. After watching episode one of the docuseries, I can say my evening was less dull that day.
It is quite remarkable how the field of medicine has advanced over the years. 200 years ago, the human race didn’t even know that microorganisms like bacteria, amoeba and fungi caused disease but look at us now in 2023, battling pandemics and epidemics with ease (with relative ease) and the thing is medicine is still evolving. Men and women are dedicating their lives to pushing medical technologies forward, we haven’t even scratched the potential of medicine and healthcare technology.
So I went down the rabbit hole trying to see what the future of medicine looks like and what technologies are at the forefront of changing the healthcare industry. In this post, I shall explore the technologies I found to be revolutionary in the field of medicine
So let’s dive in
From Iron Man’s nanobot suit in Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame to the nanobots in that random Phineas and Ferb episode, nanotech is a technology that has been explored a lot in Science Fiction.
For those who do not know what nanotechnology is, nanotech deals with engineering systems that can manipulate materials at the nanoscale or molecular level. In simpler terms, using scientific know-how to manipulate stuff at the molecular level.
Nanotechnology has a lot of applications, from warfare to domestic use to even water filtration. The sky's the limit when it comes to nanotechnology but the applications of nanotechnology in medicine are what caught my eye.
Nanotech might be the next big thing in medical technologies. MIT has been developing “smart pills”, pills that measure the vital signs of a patient and deliver doses of drugs when they are most needed by the patient, with “smart pills” people do not have to worry about getting their dose wrong anymore.
Multiple research institutions including famous US universities like Stanford and the University of Michigan have also had their try with nanotechnology by developing nanobots. Nanobots are versatile and can be used for many therapies and procedures. Nanobots are being designed to detect and correct genetic defects by directly changing the genetic makeup of the damaged cells. Nanobots are also being programmed to perform surgeries, we might end up in a future with knife-less surgeries (Something that I want to happen).
Other applications of nanotech in medicine include smart wearables, nanobots can be used to measure vitals like pulse rate, and blood oxygen and even track menstrual cycles. Nanofibers can help with healing for patients and some mad scientists want to use nanofibers to create natural textiles that we can use for clothing,
Nanotech seems to be wondrous, out of this world, but it still has a long way to go before the average Joe can use nanobots to grow his own Louis Vuitton but hopefully, all this is waiting for us in the future.
The end of cancer.
Cancer, for most this word sends shivers down their spines. Cancer seems to be the scourge of the modern world. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), cancer was the second biggest cause of death in the United States with over 600,000 people dying from it in 2021.
What makes cancer so much worse is that cancer treatment is not that effective. Cancer treatment usually attacks the cancer cells as well as the normal cells that you need. With our modern lifestyle, cancer is becoming more and more of a problem, an epidemic of sorts.
Many scientists and researchers know this and have been working, trying to find new ways to combat cancer. One of the new therapies being developed is immunotherapy and personalised vaccines. Scientists are developing drugs and therapies that can inhibit tumour growth and development and some are even designing treatments that are tailor-made to your genetic code.
AI is also being used to model and profile tumour growth coupled with nanobots, future physicians can detect and kill tumours before they even become a threat. AI is also being trained to do precise surgery to eradicate tumours without causing harm to the rest of the body.
More and more advancements are being made to fight cancer. Companies and governments are investing heavily in research and development for cancer treatments. Most big pharma executives are optimistic and believe that the progress they are making will one-day end cancer. Maybe in the next three decades, cancer might be gone like smallpox. We just have to wait and see.
I believe once we are able to tackle issues like cancer, antibiotic resistance, heart disease, diabetes and other forms of illness, humans will tackle one of mankind’s biggest enemies, ageing.
It must sound outlandish, fighting ageing. Most people have accepted that ageing is part and parcel of the human condition and no one can change that but some minds look at ageing differently. They see ageing like any other disease and like any other illness ageing can be cured.
We have already taken great leaps in tackling ageing, people live longer now than ever before. The world average life expectancy has grown from 67.07 to 73.16 years from 2000 to 2023. In just 23 years, the world’s average life expectancy has grown by 6 years. The average joe can live for 6 more years, that’s impressive. People are also healthier in their old age now. Modern medicine is already pushing us to live longer, healthier and even more youthful lives.
So what does the future hold for anti-ageing? The first step in ending ageing involves understanding ageing. Most scientists are still trying to understand what causes ageing but most agree that ageing is caused by genetic damage to the cells the more time goes. To understand the process of ageing, you need to look at humans as machines that get wear and tear the more we they operate. Understanding ageing opens the gates for curing ageing and many people take curing ageing quite seriously.
Some scientists are investigating what causes the genetic damage that occurs with time and from there they can try to solve ageing. Just January of this year, scientists at Harvard Medical centre were able to reverse ageing in some lab mice by controlling epigenetic factors of the mice.
Engineering stronger telomeres that can slow breakdown of DNA and stem cell therapy are also being researched as methods for “curing” ageing.
In 2008, British mathematician Aubrey de Gray claimed that the first humans to live to be 1000 years old were already born. With all the research being made, his claim might not be that off. Maybe we are heading towards an ageless society.
The slaughter of death
It might sound weird to say “To slaughter death”, that’s just unusual. How can you slaughter death? Death has always perplexed man, it has defined our species. You cannot imagine humanity without death but recently with all the advancements humans have made. An existence without death seems possible.
I know I moved from an outlandish claim to an even more outlandish claim but the data shows humans are heading towards that future.
The story of medicine is inexplicably linked to the journey towards immortality, the more we find breakthroughs in medicine the more we push back death. Humans are living longer than ever before, vaccines for dangerous infections can be made in months even weeks in our modern day. The more we push for innovation the more we drive away our mortality.
Innovations like gene editing, nanobots and biology-computer integration are making the idea of immortality less of a fever dream. Ray Kurzweil actually believes humans will have immortality by 2030, much closer than most people think.
Maybe the next time I write about immortality, it won’t be talking about the possibilities of being immortal but rather I’ll be talking about coping with living forever.
Medicine, like most fields of science in our modern world, is growing at a mind boggling pace. With every hour, minute and even second, researchers are discovering new drugs, treatments and therapies that promise a healthier, a more youthful and a livelier future.
I remember watching “Pain,Pus and Poison” and being surprised at how crude and simple old medical procedures used to be but now I realise in the next decades we will look back as a species at the medical technologies of the 2020s and chuckle.
What are your views on the future of medicine? Do you think all the advancements in medical technology are for the greater good or do they serve another purpose? Either way we are headed towards unprecedented times.