Robots are machines capable of endlessly repeating the same operation, without fatigue or making mistakes. With such qualities, they are now quietly moving into many areas of our socio-economic world, replacing human operators deemed less reliable and more expensive. Medicine, especially surgery, is a prime demand field for robots. The latter can carry out very precise operations, in a cluttered environment, reducing the risks for both the surgeon and the patient.
Initially developed for military uses, exoskeletons are now moving into civvy street, with applications under development for disabled senior citizens or handicapped persons. Business of this product calls for sophisticated technologies by also for a clear view at the end-users. In this technology-intensive, leading edge emerging market, start-ups are out front.
Spain is one of the world's leading nations in biotechnology research, but it lags behind in technology transfer and the creation of new companies. The Spanish government is hoping to bring about a radical change in these statistics. To do so, it is focusing on the Israeli biotech sector, a world leader in creating start-ups, as the inspiration for designing an entrepreneurial and business model based on innovation. Not a bad strategy, but it should not remain unchallenged. Let's have a look.
Rapid advances in neurosciences have led to some decisive progress in fields as varied as education, or treatment of psychiatric disorders. But it is a specialty where debate rages as the ambitions expand overtly.
Significant tech breakthroughs, a growing number of applications, mature industrial processes: in recent years many factors have boosted the development of nuclear medicine. Not so long ago, it was a matter of R&D. Now it's an industry. One of its most interesting business lines is the production of FDG, the most widely used radioactive tracer in nuclear medical imaging.
Various technologies are now vying to develop an augmented human being. Step-by-step, they would gradually modify the basic data registers of life, such as intelligence, procreation, ageing. Techno-prophets, not all crazed illuminati, entertain the dream of the advent of New Mankind. Major (and some minor) ethical questions arise as we explore a phenomenon that is no longer restrained within the wraps of sci-fi.
The spectacular optical properties of nanoparticles are revolutionizing medical imaging. They also help to renew therapeutic techniques. On the occasion of the inauguration of the AXA-ESPCI Chair, Emmanuel Fort, professor at the Langevin Institute of ESPCI ParisTech, presented the latest advances in a promising field where two roads meet.
Advances in neuroscience have shed a new light on our understanding of classic issues about learning. How does it work? Is it different for adults and children? During a recent lecture, Stanislas Dehaene, a neuroscience researcher, gave an overview of recent discoveries in this field. A revolution in the making.
With 3-D medical imaging rapidly coming on line, a silent revolution is under way in our hospitals and research establishments. Practitioner's techniques are constantly improving and gaining ground, but there are limits. New strides forward will come from combinatory techologies, for example, by marrying PET-Scan and MRI.
Cancer diagnosis and treatments today are undergoing deep-reaching changes. Therapeutic strategies, until recently, could be summarised as ablation of the diseased organs and destruction of cancerous cells, often leading to serious unwanted effects that weaken the patient or limit the efficiency of the cancer treatment. But innovative approaches are emerging. They target cell functions and its close environment.
The London Olympic Games gave the world an opportunity to behold something previously unseen: an amputee athlete, Oscar Pistorius, crouching in the starting blocks alongside the world’s greatest runners. Such a sight raised an unprecedented question: are new generation prostheses going to give an unfair advantage to certain athletes? Technologies are now allowing amazing performances. But is technological progress advancing social integration for the disabled?
The problem of counterfeit drugs has emerged as an acute issue in the public debate over the last ten years. Both China's entry in the World Trade Organization and the growth of the Internet have deeply influenced the evolution of this problem. Meanwhile, the forms and issues at stake are not very well known. Today, the problem has grown to such a magnitude that it has become crucial to rethink our fight against drug counterfeiting.
Advances in medical imaging make this discipline a laboratory for the latest scientific methods. Disruptive innovations stemming from the convergence of medicine and physical sciences lead to fundamental questions: is there a place for experts against machines? How to reconcile statistical data, mass produced by new devices, with a focus on he who is central to medical practice: the individual?
From risk profiling to gene therapy and molecular diagnostics, personalized medicine opens new, exciting fields to medical research. Not only is it good news for the patients: considerable improvements are at stake, both for health systems and pharmaceutical firms now struggling to reinvent themselves. But the road ahead is still full of obstacles.
The recently-adopted smoking bans in bars and restaurants epitomize a cultural transformation. By creating an environment where smoking becomes increasingly more difficult, the bans help shift social norms away from the acceptance of smoking in everyday life and promotes public rejection of cigarettes. And this is only the beginning. New public policies such as nudging smokers are now developed, raising legal and moral issues.
Technology-enabled home health care should be thriving. An aging population and the transformation of acute illnesses such as heart failure into chronic diseases mean that the number of patients is growing. In addition, new medical-technology devices could help keep patients at home rather than in costly institutions, such as assisted-living facilities or nursing homes - leading to potentially big savings for the health care systems. Instead, the full potential of the technology-enabled home health care market remains to be tapped.
Brain malfunctions account for 35% of all diseases in Europe, with an annual cost of 400 billion Euros, well above the costs of cardiovascular disease and cancer. This is not surprising because a complex structure is subject to a huge number of dysfunctions.
In most places in the world, the death rate keeps falling. Even in the West, where we keep doing our best to tempt fate by gaining more weight, the trend continues to be toward longer life. Now some scientists believe the rapid growth of genetic knowledge may make further medical breakthroughs even more likely. How much longer might we live? And how will society cope if we do?
Looking for balance between science and technology in modern research, we can observe it is the latter in the ascendant. Research is being dictated by the availability of technological resources but in the past, the reverse was true. Projects began by a review of the available data from which a scientific hypothesis was constructed, and finally a search for the best technological tools would begin. Francoise Barre-Sinoussi, who was awarded the Nobel prize in 2008, suggests that in the rush to embrace technology, researchers may be missing the chance to learn from what worked so well in the past.
Throughout history, changes in human behavior have caused the dissemination of infectious diseases, from smallpox to the flu. But thanks to scientific progress and plain old international cooperation and coordination, we’ve been able to ward off disaster, or at least the worst of it. However, an additional factor will up the stakes for scientists and policymakers worldwide in the fight against emergence or re-emergence: the remarkable adaptive capacities of microbes. The question is, microbes or men, who will win?