HEALTH-CARE REFORM: A Vision of the Future
The problems in medical and energy
research lie in understanding and controlling events at a
If we can build machines
atom by atom, the possibilities are
One such possibility would be a medical system that
could cure any disease.
The only question is: "How long will it take?"
This depends primarily upon the efficiency of our
educational and governmental systems and our ability to communicate
these ideas to the public.
is the science of building tiny machines; machines that could enter the human body and act as
single-cell laboratories to detect and repair any problems. For
example, Swedish scientists Edwin W.H. Jager and Olle Inganäs are
developing nanostructures called actuators - mechanical devices that
can move or control things - to handle biological materials such as
single cells, bacteria, or molecules in liquids like blood plasma, and
cell culture medium.
The tiny machines - extremely
durable and capable of a wide variety of tasks - are being developed and
studied in scores of laboratories all over the world. This is
critically important, because at present we don't have the capability to
measure many of the microbiological processes in the body.
Lyme disease, for example,
is a chronic and crippling disease caused by several types of bacteria.
At present, there is no reliable test for this illness, and no cure.
We must develop tools that can decipher the vast array of events that
occur within our bodies on a molecular level, and nanotechnology offers
very promising assistance.
Chip technology doubles every
eighteen months. By the year
2020, chips will likely have the raw processing power of the
human brain, and will forever exceed it after that. We already
place chip implants in inner ears to improve hearing and in retinas to
give limited sight to the blind, yet when one goes to a doctor seeking
treatment of a chronic illness, the doctor is likely to simply take the
patient's blood pressure; poke him a few times; and with some
guesswork, write out an expensive prescription that may or may not
In light of the technology
discussed above, a blood pressure instrument
seems a very primitive tool, most commonly used as ritual, rather than
to gain useful information on the patient's condition. We have proven
that we have the capacity to work miracles, and yet for the most part,
our methods are clumsy and ineffectual.
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