When robots will heal humans, as in Star Wars
Five medthech myths from Hollywood movies: which of them are complete nonsense, and what will come true?
Five medtech myths from Hollywood movies: which of them are complete nonsense, and what will come true?

Movie characters often lose limbs in battles with enemies. But in the fantasy world of the future, this is not a problem. Robotic nurses easily replace lost body parts with biomechanical prostheses. They can hardly be distinguished from human flesh.
One of Star War's most memorable moments is Luke Skywalker fighting lightsaber with Darth Vader. In the battle, he loses his hand, but does not become a disabled Jedi. Luke quickly gets a bionic prosthesis, which is practically indistinguishable from a real hand.
What is the reality?
It is still difficult to suture even a person's own or donor hand. This is not a kidney transplant. In the case of hands, numerous bones, tendons, muscles, blood vessels and nerve endings are sutured. However, there is no guarantee that in the future the limb will properly function.

As for biomechanical prostheses, here surgery has not yet taken a leap into the future.
Only this year, in February, encouraging news came from Europe. A 45-year-old woman from Sweden underwent a preparatory operation to subsequently implant a robotic arm.

Her arm was amputated back in 2002. Now she is restoring the strength of the muscles of her forearm and is learning to control her arm, but still only in virtual reality programs.
The first woman to prepare for prosthetics
Two metal plates implanted in her forearm are attached to nerve endings.

The robots on spaceships have long been carrying out complex surgical interventions. As a rule, they are carried out in a capsule, where many manipulators cut and suture living tissue back. And after a couple of hours, the person is as good as new.
"Alien". When the main character Ripley realized that the embryo of a monster was already living inside her body, she was operated on in a special medical capsule. The machine performed abdominohysterotomy, pulling out a completely viable embryo.
Do robots perform operations on humans these days?
Not autonomously. But for a long time already robotic manipulators under the control of medical operators have been used. For example, in hundreds of clinics around the world, the four-armed da Vinci robot is already performing operations. It was originally created by NASA scientists to provide medical assistance to astronauts. But in 2000 it was first authorized for use in ordinary earthly clinics.

Two hands carry out the commands of the surgeon, another holds the camera, and the fourth manipulator serves as an assistant to the surgeon. The doctor stays at the control panel and sees on the screen the operated area in 3D.

Such operations are good as they are minimally invasive (provide less interference with the body and trauma than open surgery used for the same purpose – Ed.).
The da Vinci robot in Ukraine is now in Vinnytsia. They got it there only this year. And only several doctors are able to control it.

Da Vinci is the most popular robot surgeon. Last year, such machines carried out about 1 million operations around the world.

The next stage is the development of remote surgery using robotic manipulators.

One of the latest news is that in India, the surgeon performed the patient a heart operation, being 20 miles from the operated person.

Recreating a living organism from tissue residues. You must admit that this is a very popular topic in science fiction films. Thus, the scriptwriters brought hundreds of dinosaurs and monsters from the past back to life. And what about people?
In "The Fifth Element", Milla Jovovich plays Leeloo, a girl completely recreated from the genome of an omnipotent being. Among the wreckage of a crashed spacecraft, only her palm was found, with several living cells with DNA. But this was enough for the robot to completely recreate the body.
Is it possible to recreate a human from the remains of the body?
A journalist of our editorial office talked on this subject with one of the most progressive geneticists in the world according to the MIT Technology Review – Olha Dudchenko.

As she explained, the studies are already underway in the world, the result of which will be make it possible to recreate living beings from the genome. We are talking about extinct creatures, or those whose species are on the verge of extinction.

The most famous and popularized attempts are to bring mammoths back to life. There are two ways to do it. The first is to clone them from the remains of tissues found in permafrost. That is, to plant the cell nucleus into the egg to the closest relative – the Asian elephant.

The second way is to try to make a mammoth out of an elephant. The genome editing method already exists. Most likely, it will turn out something very similar to a mammoth. Technically, this can be done.
A person has not yet been reproduced from the remains, but in medicine there is some experience in growing organs.

A few years ago, a child with a fever was brought to the unit of a children's hospital in Germany. Septic skin inflammation caused by the staphylococci was also exposed. Doctors prescribed antibiotics used in such cases – but they did not help.

The child was saved by Italian researchers who "grew" the necessary amount of healthy skin.

Brain implants is a classical topic of science fiction films, both era-defining and modern TV shows. With their help, people can expand their consciousness, see and save huge amounts of information.
In "Johnny Mnemonic" movie, released 25 years ago, young Keanu Reeves works as a courier carrying critical information on a chip implanted in the brain. His memory is different from the general human memory, therefore, Johnny does not remember his own childhood.
Is it really possible to add RAM to the brain?
The developments in this direction are ongoing. One of the most high-profile projects is Neuralink. It is promoted by Elon Musk, known for the projects Space X and Tesla. Neuralink became known back in 2017. Its purpose is to connect a computer to the human brain.

Elon promised two years ago that commercial neural interfaces would appear in 7-8 years, and medical devices – in four years.
Musk has already presented the first prototypes. These are flexible "threads"– with a thickness of 4-6 microns – several times less than the thickness of a human hair. The information will be transmitted through them.

Neuralink also showed a device that automatically implants six "threads" into the brain within a minute.

The principle of operation resembles a sewing machine – a needle grabs a thread by a loop and inserts it into the brain. The device avoids blood vessels, which helps to reduce inflammatory reactions during surgery.

To read data from the "threads", the startup has developed a special chip that can transfer information using USB-C. So far, it has been tested only in laboratory rats.
Will cyborgs appear among us? With a chip in their head.
The head of the board of directors of Darnitsa Group Dmytro Shymkiv not only believes in this, but even personally knows the carrier of such a chip. In the spring, 34-year-old Neil Harbisson, a British artist and composer who is considered the world's first cyborg, came to Kyiv. From childhood, he suffered from achromatopsia and saw the world in black and white. In 2003, Neil got implanted an antenna with microchips into his skull, and now he recognizes the sound frequencies of colours.

"Imagine, a guy with an antenna in his head hears colours! It sounds like science fiction, but it is real technology, owing to which Neil has become a person with additional capabilities", Dmytro says enthusiastically.

There are already other cyborgs in the world. They predict the weather, "see" with the back of their head and even determine the direction to the north, like migratory birds.

"It is important that cybermodification of the body will help preserve the planet's ecosystem. If we learn how to regulate body temperature, we do not need heating. If we "level up" our eyes to have night vision, we will not need street lights, "concludes the top manager of "Darnitsa".

Neil Harbisson, the world's first cyborg

There are so many science fiction movies about superheroes. And in almost all of these films, the DNA of the superhero changes its structure in some unusual way, and he gets superpowers. Gene editing is the topic that everyone has heard of right now. What opportunities does it offer us?
Scientist Bruce Banner was accidentally exposed to gamma radiation, which he was studying in his laboratory. He survived. But now every time he gets angry, he turns into a giant green monster. Bruce survived due to his mysterious past, which only his father knows about. Banner has changed DNA since birth, designed for super-soldiers.
Можно ли создать суперчеловека?
At the end of last year, important news appeared. Chinese geneticist He Jiankui announced the successful editing of the human genome. Two twin girls, Nana and Lulu, were born after in vitro fertilization. With paternal sperm, the CRISPR-cas9 molecular machine was introduced into the egg.

It was supposed to modify the CCR5 gene. It encodes a membrane protein recognized by the human immunodeficiency virus. If this protein is slightly modified, the virus will be helpless, and the host of the mutant protein will be resistant to HIV infection.
Everything is not so glowing about this news. Geneticist Olha Dudchenko predicts the imminent introduction of a moratorium for a period of 10 years, which will prohibit the genome of human embryos from editing. This is due to the fact that changes in the genome at the level of the egg can penetrate the genetic pool. Moreover, almost all editing methods have a probability of error.

Olha believes that the creation of supermen is definitely not in our lifetime. Even the colour of the eyes, she said, is encoded in a huge number of genes. And this chain is unlikely to be unraveled soon.

As the MIT Technology Review has recently reported, the Chinese twins with the edited gene can still get superpowers. The machine affected not only the protein responsible for HIV, but also the memory capabilities of children. They may be able to memorize information
Текст: Стас Юрасов.
Фото: Pixabay
Дата публикации: 12.09.2019 г.
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