One of the things I love most about medicine is the breakneck speed at which it advances. New discoveries are being made everyday, and technology is constantly being incorporated in thrilling and innovative ways. Here are my top three exciting breakthroughs in modern medicine.
1. Wearable Tech Can Save Lives
Wearable technology has come a long way since the early days of fitness tracking. These days, your smart watch can do so much more than just count your steps—it may even save your life.
When used with the ECG app, the Apple Watch Series 4 can read your heart’s electrical signals, generating an ECG that’s like an electrocardiogram. The ECG app can detect symptoms of atrial fibrillation, a serious type of arrhythmia (irregular heart rhythm).
The Apple Watch Series 4 can also tell if you’ve fallen, thanks to its highly sensitive accelerometer and gyroscope. When the watch detects a hard fall, it delivers an alert that gives you the option to either alert emergency services or dismiss. If you don’t respond after 60 seconds, an emergency call will automatically be placed and your emergency contacts will be notified and given your location.
Another type of wearable technology can help prevent overexposure to dangerous UV rays. L’Oréal’s My UV Patch is a disposable device that resembles a small Band-Aid. It contains 16 tiny sensors that change color when exposed to UV light. When you snap a picture of the patch with your smartphone, the accompanying app analyzes your exposure and lets you know if it’s time to seek some shade.
Another one of my favorites may be familiar to you as I’ve mentioned it before. I love my Oura ring for its ability to track sleep quality and heart rate variability (the best measure of stress that we have). A sleek ring design that fits comfortably on my finger makes it about as effortless as tracking gets.
2. We May Be Able to Change Our Genes
Advances in the study of epigenetics are among the most exciting scientific breakthroughs. The study of how chemical and environmental factors impact our genetic health, epigenetics has revealed a number of different ways we can influence our genes.
Why is this exciting? People used to believe that they were at the mercy of their genes. If your grandfather and your dad both had heart problems, for example, you might assume that you were doomed to the same fate. But the study of epigenetics has shown us that we can actually alter our genes through lifestyle choices like what kind of diet we eat or how much exercise we get.
Scientists in the field of nutriepigenomics (or nutrigenomics) have been exploring the ways in which food and epigenetics interact, with fascinating results. One study found that eating a ketogenic diet—one that’s high in fat and low in carbs—could relax DNA and improve mental function. This study doesn’t imply everyone should be on a KETO diet – and it has yet to be replicated in humans – but it does show that dietary manipulations can influence gene expression. Other research indicates certain compounds in foods could affect genes in a way that protects against cancer.
The more we learn about epigenetics, the more the old idea that our genes dictate our health goes out the window. Knowing that you have a certain measure of control when it comes to your genes can help you optimize your genetics.
3. Stem Cells Provide New Options for Disease Treatment
If you created a Google alert for every time a breakthrough in stem cell science made the news, you’d have a hard time keeping up. Stem cell therapies are at the cutting-edge of modern medicine, with research indicating their potential to improve treatments for cancer, spinal cord injuries, Alzheimer’s disease, and much more.
One of the primary goals of stem cell research is to broaden our understanding of how diseases occur in the body. Researchers studying stem cells are also working to guide stem cells into becoming specific types of cells that can be used to repair and regenerate damaged and diseased tissue. This type of regenerative medicine is incredibly promising, and will play a major role in the ways we approach disease treatment in the future. Already, there are plenty of places offering stem cell therapy. I’m not sure it’s for everyone quite yet, as I’d like to see more data to know what conditions are best treated with stem cells, but I know we will be using stem cells for more and more therapies over the coming years.
With all the excitement around stem cell research, a growing number of people are considering stem cell banking, which involves storing stem cells in a way that preserves their cellular characteristics while preventing them from contamination and/or deterioration so that they may be used in the future – typically for disease treatment. Stem cells can be banked for long periods of time yet remain instantly accessible when needed. We have partnered with a company, Silene Biotech, to offer stem cell banking for our patients. Feel free to reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org for more details if interested.
Harness Technology, Optimize Health
I’m a big believer in harnessing the power of technology to optimize health. To learn what areas you need to focus on, take my Optimal Men’s Health Quiz.
Myles Spar, MD, MPH is board-certified in Internal Medicine and in Integrative Medicine. As a clinician, teacher and researcher on faculty of two major medical centers, he has led the charge for a more proactive, holistic and personalized approach to care that focuses on cutting edge technology and preventative care. Dr. Spar has traveled with the NBA, presented a TEDx Talk, appeared on Dr. Oz, and been featured in publications such as the Men’s Journal and the Los Angeles Times.