The next big innovations in the medical industry

Posted: 18th April 2016 08:49

When hearing about the large sums of money spent within the medical industry, you might find it difficult to understand where all that money is going. Some illnesses seem to have been around for a very long time without many new drugs emerging to treat them. But medical science isn’t just about developing drugs – it’s about finding more effective ways to tackle underlying issues, and the big ideas coming out of research today could revolutionise the way we live.

Monitoring software

Smart gadgets are changing all our lives and this is especially evident in the medical sector. Cuffs, T-shirts and even beds are now able to monitor temperature, blood pressure and pulse and send that data to a doctor, raising the alarm if anything goes wrong. Mobile phone apps can help people keep track of when they need to take their pills and record when they have taken them – particularly helpful for dementia sufferers. These innovations can help people live safely and independently for much longer and can ease the strain on carers.

Stem cells

Stem cells form the building blocks for all our organs and we are getting increasingly good at working with them. We can already grow brand new bladders, and we’re close on kidneys and hearts. Dental stem cells harvested from baby teeth are making it possible for scientists to pursue new lines of research, and they may also hold the key to personalised medicine, as having such teeth properly stored could mean that a child can have a perfectly tissue-typed organ created at any stage in life, when an old one needs to be replaced or patched up.

Immune system engineering

Our immune systems evolved to protect us but struggle to keep up with the speed at which diseases can evolve in today’s interconnected world. Vaccination helps to an extent, but what if we could directly alter our immune systems to help battle specific foes? Research in this area is advancing at an impressive pace. Immune system engineering may help the body destroy cancers that normally evade the immune system because they look almost identical to its own cells, and it may mean that misplaced, damaging immune reactions in people with allergies and autoimmune diseases can be stopped.

The business of medicine

Each of these avenues of research requires a considerable amount of funding, and it’s never clear which specific projects will bear fruit, so investors are taking a risk. This is an area where private enterprise can often be much more effective than government-backed projects, where voters with limited understanding of the sector grow frustrated with repeated failures. It only takes one big success to change millions of lives for the better – and reward investors financially into the bargain.

Research like this is not only changing medicine – it’s changing every aspect of how we live. Even if you never have to deal with serious illness, you’re likely to live longer and stay fitter thanks to technologies like these, and enjoy a stronger economy due to the knock-on effects of reduced disability. Medicine is about to take us into a new age.