Vaccines developed in the 20th century took medicine to a new level, eradicating and preventing many illness. See the next page to take a look at what other modern medicine marvels and experimental treatments are available today.
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Hate needles? An inkjet drug delivery system in development could control the flow of drugs through a patch. Microneedles, made of materials like silicon, metals and biodegradable polymers, would help transmit the drugs through the skin. See how robots are being used in medicine next.
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A man demonstrates Hitachi's MRI-guided surgical robotic system for laparoscopic surgery. This is the first prototype robot that enables a surgeon to conduct a surgery while the patient is in an MRI scanner. See other ways robots are being used for surgery on the next page.
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A nurse prepares a robotic surgery system for heart surgery. The three approaches to robot surgery are shared-control, supervisory-controlled and the da Vinci surgical system. "Telesurgery" might also be an option in the future. Next, see heart technology that might keep you alive.
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An artificial pacemaker mimics the electrical impulses normally created by the SA node and maintains a normal heartbeat. Next, see what is available if you need a completely new heart.
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The surgery to implant an AbioCor artificial heart is extremely delicate. Not only are the surgeons cutting off and extracting the natural heart's right and left ventricles, but they are also placing a foreign object into the patient's chest. See an X-ray of an artificial heart inside someone's chest on the next page.
Image Credit: Photo courtesy Abiomed
The AbioCor Implantable Replacement Heart is the first completely self-contained artificial heart and is expected to at least double the life expectancy of heart patients. See what other artificial parts modern medicine has developed on the next page.
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There are two main types of artificial blood: hemoglobin-based oxygen carriers (HBOCs) and perfluorocarbons (PFCs). HBOCs may contain old human blood or cow blood, while PFCs are synthetic. Did you know skin could be grown in a lab? See the next page.
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A man holds a piece of artificial skin from Integra. Skin grafts from a patient would be placed atop this piece. Growing skin in a lab can allow scientists to create a sheet of skin 100 times the size of the original sample. See if artificial vision is possible next.
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This magnified artificial silicon retina chip was developed by Optobionics. In FDA clinical trials as of late 2007, it improved vision in 10 subjects over a period of two years. On the next page, see the capabilities of artificial limbs.
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Biomechatronics researchers attempt to make devices that interact with human muscle, skeleton and nervous systems. The goal is to assist or enhance human motor control that has been lost or impaired by trauma, disease or birth defects. Next, see new advances in mental health.
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Virtual reality exposure therapy uses a virtual reality unit to simulate situations that cause anxiety in phobia patients. Video games are also being used for health. See the next page to learn more.
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Epidemiologists are looking to "World of Warcraft" as a virtual disease outbreak model. In 2005, the developers of "World of Warcraft" created a virtual virus that led to a plague. By studying the effects, epidemiologists were able to confirm some widely held epidemiological predictions. See why you would want a laser in your brain next.
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Lasers have been identified as a main focus in developing stroke treatments, primarily by bursting blood clots in the brain. Doctors will use brain imaging as a guide. See how else lasers are being used in modern modern on the next page.
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Laser light is a new alternative to killing a virus, which is less damaging to human tissue than other methods.
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Lung cancer is the most common of cancer's killers, taking the lives of many thousands each year. One of the big reasons for the high mortality rate of those diagnosed is that there is no reliable way to catch it in its early stages. Usually, by the time it's detected, it's too late. Regular X-rays aren't sensitive to catch small tumors early, and what's more, most insurers don't cover lung cancer screening procedures. In the end, not many people live more than five years beyond diagnosis. Today, though, things may be looking up. A low-radiation, spiral computed tomography scan (otherwise known as a spiral CT) can take a series of highly detailed cross-sectional images of the lungs. The images are then combined to create a three-dimensional look, helping to spot tumors and spot them early enough that they stand a better chance of being operable. Lung cancer screening trials of spiral CTs are quite encouraging for current and former smokers as well as those adversely exposed to secondhand smoke over a long period of time.
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Athletes and non-athletes alike are often at risk for concussions. The brain is susceptible to hard knocks that send it careening into the inner wall of the skull. You can even have a concussion and not realize it, as only a small percentage of those who get concussions are actually knocked out cold. Trying to jump back into action too soon after a concussion can be risky, and even deadly. Hockey star Sidney Crosby, pictured above, has had serious difficulties getting back to his illustrious career after a concussion. But thanks to doctors at Cleveland Clinic, better monitoring of athletes for concussions is at hand. The clinic has created a concussion management system with special tools to establish baseline motor and cognitive skills at the start of a season. Meanwhile, a special mouth guard that uses Bluetooth wireless communication keeps a real-time eye on any hits to a player's head. If there's a traumatic hit registered by the mouth guard, the player can retake the assessment tests to see what damage has occurred.
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Brain aneurysms, such as those in the monitors above, can live inside a person undetected, growing for years. The bigger they get, the harder they are to repair with surgery. But a new tool called the Pipeline Embolization Device now allows for minimally invasive procedures on these larger aneurysms, without opening up the body for surgery. The device is basically a mesh tube that can be delivered by a catheter. Once delivered, it can divert blood flow away from the aneurysm. Over time, this completely eliminates the aneurysm.
Image Credit: Reza Estakhrian
Hearing is serious business. Just think about how many times in a day, a week, we ask someone to repeat themselves. "What was that?" And things probably aren't going to get much better with everyone spending most of their lives with ear buds jammed in their ears, the latest iTunes purchases ringing in their ears. We've at least made progress in trying to correct for hearing loss. From cupped hands, to bizarrely long tubes placed in our ears to try to concentrate the sound waves, to clunky hearing aids -- we've come a long way. Modern medicine gives hearing a second chance with the cochlear implant. Cochlear implants bypass damaged hearing, stimulating the auditory nerve directly, with signals generated by the implant. This picture shows the typical setup, in the ear and outside of it. Cochlear implants take some getting used to, but for children and adults who are severely hard of hearing, they can be the best means available to hear again.
Image Credit: NIH Medical Arts
Worldwide, malaria is one of the top killers, taking almost one million people per year, according to the World Health Organization. But modern medicine may have figured out a potent new tool against the crippling illness: a genetically modified mosquito that is able to kill the malaria parasite as soon as the parasite takes up residence in the mosquito. Scientists have been able to use genetic engineering to make a mosquito with a better immune system, one that is able to attack the malaria parasite. It's not a cure-all, because the process hasn't yet been applied to multiple species of mosquito, but if modified mosquitoes can eventually be bred in the wild, it would be a strong new weapon in mankind's arsenal against malaria.
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High blood pressure affects a great many people, and some of those people are even resistant to medication. The latter group hasn't had much to help them, until a process called renal denervation was developed. It happens like this: a catheter probe (pictured above) is run through the femoral artery and upper thigh and is moved toward the renal artery near the kidneys. The catheter then delivers low-power, radio-frequency energy in multiple two-minute bursts. Those bursts of energy disrupt small nerve fibers that carry signals between the kidneys and the brain. Scientists have found that when those nerve fibers are disrupted, it can affect blood pressure in a positive way.
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While there is no cure for diabetes, there are lots of ways for keeping it in check. But for type 2 diabetes, however, there is not yet a perfect treatment. A new suite of drugs on the way could change that. They're called SGLT2 inhibitors, and they reduce blood sugar using an entirely new method: causing it to be excreted during urination. There are many SGLT2 inhibitors in the works, and studies on them have been encouraging in terms of both their effectiveness and their tolerance by patients.
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Here we see some more promising work with prosthetic devices. Shown is a hand with "mesofluidic" prosthetic fingers. In work funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), mesofluidics is a new technology that could bring the strength and speed of a natural arm and hand to a prosthetic one. Actuation could be given to prosthetic finger, thumb, wrist, elbow and shoulder joints. The technology has been tested on an elbow that achieves 60 foot-pounds of torque and on fingers that could provide 20 pounds (9 kilograms) of pinch force.
Image Credit: Oak Ridge National Laboratory
If prosthetic limbs with super-pinch force aren't enough to show the incredible progress seen in modern medicine, how about a bionic exoskeleton? Shown here is a paralyzed woman who is nonetheless able to walk with the help of a bionic exoskeleton. The battery-powered exoskeleton was developed by Ekso Bionics to help those in wheelchairs as well as those who have spinal cord injuries.
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Image Credit: U.S. Dept. of Energy Office of Science
Finally, here's a portable insulin pump -- another modern advance, freeing lots of diabetics from having to do their own insulin injections several times per day. It's a modern medical world after all, as we hope you've seen in this gallery.
Now that you've caught a glimpse of modern medicine, check out some much older treatments in our list of the 10 most popular alternative medicine treatments