The Magic of Converging Medical Technologies

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

This perfectly sensible quote comes from Arthur C. Clarke, who was best known as a science fiction writer (including 2001: A Space Odyssey) and as an inventor and futurist.

Innovation often happens at the edges – where two ways of working or ways of thinking connect and co-create something truly novel.  In converging medical technologies, we see different disciplines coming together: experts in biology, pharmacology, neuroscience and other medical fields are developing new innovations in partnership with experts in engineering, IT, materials science, nanotechnology and more.

An inspirational piece of magic here is bionic prosthetics, which we can now see being driven by thought alone because the false limb is wired right into the user’s neuromuscular system.

How about electroceuticals?  Traditionally we tackle disease with drugs, which are chemicals designed to control our cells.  But big pharma are already investigating a radical alternative – using tiny implants that control our problem cells by electrical signals instead of chemicals.  This might be used in the future to control insulin production in diabetics, or to treat epilepsy in a far more targeted way than current drugs allow.

Or imagine a future scenario where you have a heart problem and your cardiologist attaches a special tissue patch to the surface of your heart to help monitor problems.  This is one potential use of ‘cyborg tissue’, which is half living cells and half electronics.

I was at the Converging Medical Technologies conference at Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst this week, and I’ll be blogging more on what was discussed.  In the meantime, here’s to more magic.

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