Cutting-Edge Medical Technologies: Strange But True

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2019 marks the 90th anniversary of Ripley’s “Believe It or Not,” the syndicated feature that highlighted unique and odd facts and stories from around the world. Robert Ripley subtitled his column “Strange But True,” and traveled the globe in search of the bizarre and downright ridiculous.

Welcome to the curious world of healthcare technology.

With Ripley’s anniversary in mind, we’ve combed the web in search of medical tech stories making headlines in the last year that made our very jaded eyes go mmmm…..

  1. Curing Cocaine Habits in Rats
    • Researchers have discovered that deleting cocaine-cue memories has significantly reduced cocaine addiction relapse in rats. The scientists used optogenetics, a method of controlling the brain’s chemical output with various light frequencies, to pinpoint and weaken the synapses that had grown stronger due to cocaine use. This method significantly reduced the drug seeking behavior and effectively and entirely wiped out cocaine-cue memories. Now if they could only figure out how to rid my memory of the plaid leisure suit my Mom made me wear back in the seventies.
  1. Give me some skin…Bioprinted is fine.
    • Engineers are currently testing what is posed to be the “dermal regenerator” of the future. This device essentially “prints” a copy of the patient’s own skin right at their bedside by taking a sample of their uninjured skin and expanding it. These cells are then mixed into a hydrogel and set into the printer. After a set of procedures is imported into the device, the printer delivers the new tissue into the wound a layer at a time. But can you buy replacement cartridges at Staples?
  1. Tell Alice to go print a new lung
    • And while we’re on the subject, cryogenic 3D printing is also in the news. In the not too distant future, researchers say they may be able to manufacture organs that mimic the composition of real soft tissue. They say they’ve discovered “a cryogenic 3D printing method able to produce stable 3D structures by utilizing the liquid to solid phase change of a composite hydrogel (CH) ink.” Translation, soft tissue organs like lungs may be reproduceable, revolutionizing transplant methodologies.
  1. Just think happy thoughts while we open up your skull
    • We all know that a smile can go a long way, but doctors have found that it’s hard to keep spirits high during conscious brain surgeries. You don’t say? Nervous patients can suffer from anxiety, high blood pressure, and panic attacks but neuroscientists have discovered that once a key part of the brain that controls laughter and happiness is electrically stimulated, patients stay remarkably calm during their procedures. This method is now being considered for the treatment of anxiety, mood, and pain disorders. Word is that patients are now looking for technology that hits surgeons with a hammer every time they consider requiring them to be awake during an operation.
  1. And never change your batteries again
    • Calling on the Energizer Bunny every five to ten years when it’s time to replace the batteries in a pacemaker or defibrillator can be risky as a patient gets older. Seemingly simple cardiac operations can be complicated by a patient’s age and ability to withstand a basic procedure. Researchers at Dartmouth University are looking to eradicate the risk with technology that uses the heart’s own kinetic energy as a power source for respiratory devices. Elon Musk is reportedly taking notes.
  1. Take this pill and download this app
    • Nearly half of all Americans who take prescription drugs, take note. Those crazy guys at MIT have invented an ingestible sensor that delivers drugs and monitor conditions via a phone app. Researchers say “these gadgets might likewise be utilized to interact with other wearable and implantable medical gadgets, which might pool info to be interacted to the client’s or physician’s mobile phone.” Enough said.
  1. You “wear” what you eat
    • Clinicians will soon be able to monitor (in real time) a patient’s alcohol, sugar, and salt intake thanks to a tiny sensor mounted on the front of a tooth. The microchip wirelessly transmits data to a mobile device via a radiofrequency signal, similar to the way an electronic toll is collected on the highway. This technology brings a whole new meaning to the phrase, “you’ve got something in your teeth!”

Robert Ripley’s Odditoriums still attract thousands of visitors each year, eager to get a glimpse of the world’s tallest man, the human pin cushion, and the world’s largest collection of shrunken heads and mummies. It’s unlikely these new medical technologies are slated for inclusion any time soon but we couldn’t help but say, “Believe It or Not.”

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