|The Future of Medicine

Bionic eyes. Electroceuticals. Robot nurses. What sounds like science fiction is really an explosion of tech-driven innovations with the potential to reshape many aspects of health and medicine. From artificial intelligence to personal genomics and robotics, this widening array of digital tools will almost certainly boost diagnosticians’ accuracy and speed, improving disease detection at early stages, and thus raise the odds of a successful treatment or cure. With many of these tools likely phone-based, in the future, a selfie might just save your life.

A surgically gloved hand holds a computer chip, on which researchers can micro-engineer spinal cord tissue from a patient with ALS.

On this chip, researchers micro-engineered spinal cord tissue from a patient with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

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|She gave her body to science. Now she’ll live forever

“The dead teach the living” is a tenet of medicine. Medical students spend their first year dissecting a cadaver, whose life story they’ll never know. But suppose a virtual cadaver existed, one you could endlessly dissect, then restore to Lazarus-like intactness with a keystroke? A kind of digital avatar that could talk to medical students and help them understand how, in life, she was put together?

Susan Potter, 73, wanted to be one of those cadavers. She volunteered to be part of the Visible Human Project, and for the last 15 years of her life, she was a walking, talking pathology specimen for Dr. Victor M. Spitzer and his team. In death, she lives on, providing valuable information for medical students - and teaching compassion with her voice.

This is a story about a relationship between two living people: a scientist with a vision to create a boundary stretching, 21st century Gray’s Anatomy and a woman who volunteered for a project that would be realized only when she died. Join today ›

An image of a computer scan showing a zebrafish injected with human tumor cells.

Potter, shown here in in 2005, was confided to a wheelchair because of an automobile accident. She lived alone in her Denver apartment. After her death, Potter’s body was frozen, sliced 27,000 times and photographed. The result: a virtual cadaver that will speak to medical students from the grave.


|Every Body is Unique

Around the world, researchers are creating precision tools unimaginable just a decade ago: superfast DNA sequencing, tissue engineering, cellular reprogramming, gene editing, and more. The science and technology soon will make it feasible to predict your risk of cancer, heart disease, and countless other ailments – years before you get sick. The approach holds transformative possibilities for cancer treatment and could upend the way medicine has traditionally been practiced. Rather than lump patients together under broad categories of diseases, precision medicine tailors prevention, diagnosis, and treatment to a person’s unique biochemical makeup. Join today ›

An image of 78-year-old Susan Potter, who donated her body to the Visible Human Project.

Zebrafish could become a powerful tool for identifying the best chemotherapy to kill a particular patient’s cancer. Biologists injected tumor cells from patients into zebrafish larvae and tested them with the chemotherapy used on the patients.


|A New Golden Age for Traditional Medicine

Few subjects ignite more heated debate in health circles than traditional Chinese medicine. Cultures from the Arctic to the Amazon and Siberia to the South Pacific have developed their own medicine chests of traditional cures. But China, with a record dating back to the third century B.C., offers the biggest trove for scientists to sift through. For more than 2,200 years, generations of scholars added to and refined the knowledge. The result is a canon of literature dealing with every sort of health problem, including the common cold, venereal disease, paralysis, and epilepsy. Today’s Chinese physicians are trained and licensed according to state-of-the-art medical practices, but traditional medicine remains a vibrant part of the state health care system. Most Chinese hospitals have a ward devoted to ancient cures. Join today ›

NFL player James Harrison with 16 glass cups on his back and shoulders, undergoes the traditional Chinese remedy of cupping.

When they don’t find relief from Western medicine, Americans increasingly are turning to traditional treatments, notably acupuncture, now covered by some health insurance plans, and cupping, a muscle therapy that involves suction and is endorsed by many professional athletes.


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