(DGIwire) – What does the future hold for healthcare? Cutting-edge technologies could transform medicine as it is practiced today and ensure a wondrous array of breakthroughs for the patients of tomorrow. What’s especially exciting is that some advances are already in various stages of development today. Here is a brief glimpse of five of them:
- RNAi: RNA interference—“RNAi” for short—offers a powerful tool for regulating genes and thus controlling the production of proteins at work in the body. As noted in the Journal of Ocular Pharmacology and Therapeutics, RXi Pharmaceuticals has developed a therapeutic platform of self-delivering RNAi compounds, called sd-rxRNA®. The first of these compounds, RXI-109, silences connective tissue growth factor (CTGF), a key regulator of tissue regeneration and repair, and is in development to reduce scar formation in the eye and skin. The company is currently conducting two clinical trials to evaluate the safety and ability of RXI-109 to reduce the formation of dermal or retinal scars. Patients with hypertrophic scars are being enrolled in a Phase 2 trial and a Phase 1/2 clinical trial is ongoing in patients with wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
- Liquid biopsies: A liquid biopsy is a technology developed to detect liver and other cancers very early—even before symptoms arise—by sequencing the DNA in a few drops of a person’s blood. According to MIT Technology Review, the approach relies on gene-sequencing machines, which could help researchers spot the specific patterns of rearranged DNA that are telltale signs of a tumor.
- Bioelectronics: Imagine being able to deliver electrical stimulation to just the right areas of the body to stop chronic inflammation. That’s the idea behind bioelectronic medicine, according to Business Insider. Work is progressing on restoring electric signals that the brain ordinarily sends to organs to tamp down the production of inflammatory molecules—signals that stop working effectively in conditions like rheumatoid arthritis.
- Artificial intelligence: Can software be “trained” to recognize ailments such as cancer and heart disease? According to a report in The Wall Street Journal, deep learning is a technique in which software learns to identify patterns by sifting through large amounts of data. It is envisioned that systems can become reliable advisers to radiologists, dermatologists and other practitioners who analyze images and help render diagnoses.
- 3-D printing: There are many potential medical uses for 3D printing. As the journal Pharmacy & Therapeutics recently reported, these can be organized across several categories, including the fabrication of new tissues and organs; the creation of customized prosthetics, implants and anatomical models; and pharmaceutical research regarding drug dosage forms, delivery and discovery.
As advances in medicine like these continue to be made, the door is opened to a galaxy of potential new treatments for disease. The frontiers of science and medicine could usher in novel therapies that could benefit many people in the years to come.