Three Life-Saving Medical Breakthroughs That Sound Like Science Fiction Kevin Gardner Science & Medicine Today is an exciting time for medical science. Due to breakthroughs in technology and medicine, new doors are opening in terms of potentially life-saving treatments. From the tricorder to the development of artificial blood and organs, this era of medicine seems straight out of science fiction. The Tricorder The tricorder was once a mere notion conceived by Star Trek, but as of early 2017 it has become a reality. Thanks to a competition which began in 2012, the development of the tricorder was incentivized. Over the course of the next five years, scientists and engineers worked to develop a device capable of keeping a constant record of the happenings within a human body. The tricorder is just one of several steps being taken toward intensely personalized healthcare. By tracking things like blood pressure, pulse, blood sugar and sleep issues, tricorders can assist medical professionals in coming up with tailor-made treatment plans. Tricorders may also be capable of detecting diseases, such as heart problems or even cancer, before it is too late. The tricorder still needs to make it through trials and approval by the FDA, but the capabilities it has shown so far are very promising. Artificial Blood In the US alone, blood donations are needed every two seconds. Transfusions are required for individuals with kidney diseases and mineral imbalances, and blood cancer patients require large blood donations. A single car accident can lead to the need for up to 100 units of blood, and each of the individuals in need requires a certain blood type for transfusion. Because of this, blood donations are often in short supply. Artificial blood eliminates the intense need for universal blood donors. As of now, the current artificial blood advancements have allowed to artificial donations which last about 24 hours in the human body before being absorbed or metabolized. When compared the month or so that human blood lasts, an issue arises. While artificial blood is extremely valuable in emergencies, it is not yet a long-term solution. This will not always be true. Researchers are busy developing an artificial blood capable of fighting infections and lasting as long as donor blood in the body. Once this is accomplished, the artificial blood can simulate the universal blood donor type, O-, which can be given to anyone without complications. Miniature Human Brains This advancement may be the strangest yet, and it is definitely one of the most valuable. A new advancement in Stem Cell Treatment now allows scientists to grow miniature human brains, using a laboratory mouse as a host. This is not to say that the mice are able to think with the brain. They are simply used for their circulatory systems as a biological host for the living brain. These organoids have a similar structure to a developing fetal brain, but are quite simple. There is no risk of them becoming sentient, because they have no sensory input. These mini brains are nowhere near the level of a fully functional human brain in complexity. Their value lies in their ability to show researchers how the brain develops, potentially leading to treatment or prevention of diseases developed in utero, such as the Zika virus. It also has the potential to aid researchers in the development of treatment for Parkinson’s. They are capable of mimicking neurological activities allowing researchers to simulate the mechanisms in the brain which cause various diseases. Researchers can then use these simulated disease states to test treatments on human brain cells, with no risk to people. With these new breakthroughs in medical science and technology, it is only a matter of time before significant headway is made in the treatment of mankind’s most troubling illnesses. Featured image courtesy of the Library of Congress.